The National Championship Game: An Unforgettable Experience

It was a moment Clemson and Alabama fans alike had been anticipating for a year. It was January 9th, and the day of the National Championship Game had finally arrived. After a weekend of partying combined with stress about the game, fans in Tampa were ready to enter Raymond James Stadium and watch the highly-anticipated game.


Whether by foot, Uber, or bus, almost 75,000 people arrived to the stadium in time for the 8:15 kickoff time. However, many fans, including myself, became frustrated by the extremely long and crowded security lines at the stadium gates. I feared that I would not make it to my seat in time for kickoff, but thankfully I was able to make it with time to spare. Before the game, fans were treated to performances by the marching bands of both schools and the singing of the National Anthem by Little Big Town. This was followed by fireworks and an epic flyover by two V-22 Osprey helicopters, much to the amazement of all fans in attendance.


The game proved to be equally as epic. Alabama jumped out to a 14-0 lead with around 10 minutes left in the second half, leaving Crimson Tide fans elated and Tiger fans stressed. CCES junior Jack Sanders, who also attended the game, admitted that he “thought that Alabama was going to kill Clemson around the second quarter.” However, Clemson scored a late touchdown, making the score 14-7 going into halftime. After another performance from both marching bands during halftime, the two teams took the field again, ready to play the final half of the college football season. Both teams exchanged key scoring drives and defensive stops during the second half, eventually giving Alabama a 31-28 lead with around one minute left in the game. However, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson led a miraculous drive down the field that led to a touchdown with one second remaining in the game, giving the Tigers a 35-31 victory and their first National Championship in 35 years.


Senior Nathan Akerhielm, who was in attendance for the game, described the final moments as almost dreamlike. “At first, I thought it did not actually happen, and then, when I realized it did happen, it was an incredible experience,” he said. Sanders said the final minutes of the game are some that he will never forget. The postgame celebration was just as incredible. Clemson fans all around the stadium, were jumping up and down, hugging complete strangers, and even shedding some tears. As Coach Dabo Swinney raised the championship trophy, the stadium erupted in a chorus of exuberant cheers. Clemson fans continued to celebrate the victory, either around the stadium or at the hotels. I did not get back to my hotel until 2:30AM and had to wake up at 6:00 for a flight back to Greenville. Regardless of how little sleep fans got, I believe that all Clemson fans in attendance would not have traded their experience for anything as they got to see their team come out victorious in one of the best college football games of all time.


The celebration did not stop after Monday night. Ever since, the Upstate has been buzzing about the Tiger victory. Thousands of fans gathered outside of Memorial Stadium on Tuesday to cheerfully welcome the Tigers home from Tampa. On Saturday, upwards of 50,000 fans attended an epic championship parade and celebration at Memorial Stadium with speeches and words of thanks by Coach Swinney and key Clemson players.


CCES students were also elated at the Tiger’s victory. Junior Jacobe Putman always believed the Tigers would win, saying “The seniors on the team had something to play for and would not accept a loss.” Other students have shown their support and happiness by wearing Clemson-themed clothing throughout the week. It is clear that this was a very special moment for Clemson fans everywhere and is something that they will never forget.