• Championship Legacy

    By Glenn Bertram ’18

Kanyon Tuttle’s championship story began at 2 a.m.. The house was dark, save for the dim glow of a laptop screen. Kanyon stood at his parents’ bed to wake them with exhilarating news. His father, Clemson football standout Perry Tuttle, leapt out of bed when he heard Kanyon’s news: his son was going to play college football at Clemson.
“It was the greatest day. It was better than catching the national championship pass,” Perry said.
And Perry actually knows what that feels like. The moment after his game-winning catch during the 1982 Orange Bowl is forever immortalized on a Sports Illustrated cover that hangs framed on the walls of die-hard Clemson fans to this day.
Perry Tuttle isn’t the only 1981 champion lucky enough to have his son follow in his footsteps. There are four other players on the current roster with ties to the 1981 team: twin sophomore linebackers J.D. and Judah Davis, sons of 1981 team captain Jeff Davis; Jarvis Magwood, a redshirt sophomore linebacker and son of wide receiver Frank Magwood; and Cannon Smith, a redshirt sophomore tight end and son of defensive end Bill Smith. All of these fathers watched their sons celebrate a national championship. The game-winning mood transported the fathers back to 1982.

  • Perry Tuttle isn’t the only 1981 champion
    lucky enough to have his son follow in his footsteps.
    There are four other players on the current roster
    with ties to the 1981 team.

“The way I felt when the (1982) game was over was just surreal,” Perry said. “It was almost like going to the fair, and it just seemed like there was cotton candy everywhere. Everywhere you turned there was fun. I remember grabbing Homer Jordan, who was our quarterback. Homer was amazing in that  game. And running to my college roommate Jeff Davis, who was my best friend. We just kept saying over and over, ‘Man, we did it. We did it.’ It was just an incredible feeling.”
Jeff remembers that feeling too. He also remembers how he felt before the 1982 game.
“I was excited to unleash some pent-up aggression, because we were being disrespected as an institution and as a football team,” Jeff said. “We were undefeated, and yet we were still the underdogs. So, man, I was like, ‘Blow the whistle. Let me loose.’ I couldn’t wait to do battle and to do it at a high level.”
Jeff and his teammates made good on his goals. Jeff and Perry led the electric Tiger performance that culminated in a 22-15 victory over Nebraska.
“Nebraska was a storied program, and we took it from them,” Jeff said. “I enjoyed every second.”

  • J.D., Jeff, and Judah Davis

The 1982 team went down in Clemson sporting lore as champions, but Jeff and Perry weren’t quite finished with the championship legacy they had started. Jeff eventually became the assistant athletic director for player relations, a position he still holds today.  Perry returned to Clemson regularly to see old friends and acquaintances and kept in touch with the program. He took Kanyon and his other children to games, and it was at those games where Kanyon fell in love with Clemson football.
When Kanyon arrived for his first day of camp at Clemson, he joined a team that already had Jeff’s sons as members — Judah and J.D.
Each of the Davis brothers has had the honor of making the first tackle in a College Football Playoff National Championship. J.D. made his tackle on the kickoff of the game’s 2016 edition. Clemson lost that game to Alabama 45-40. When Judah made his tackle on the first kickoff of the 2017 game, also against Alabama, he only had one thought:
“Hopefully it’ll be a different ending this time.”
Attaining a different ending required a unique mental approach.
“We treated ’Bama like a faceless, nameless opponent,” Judah said. “[pullquote]We didn’t make it about them. We made it about us, about what we could do. So we just put in that extra, whether it was in the film room or at practice or just hanging out as a group and strengthening our bond, so when we did get out there, and go into the tough parts of the game, we’d be able to come through and do it as a team.[/pullquote]” Clemson beat Alabama in the final seconds, 35-31.
“I was in shock. Disbelief,” J.D. said. “The way we won was incredible. I’m still in shock to be honest. We were just numb, just running all over the place.”
“It was awesome to actually finish in a championship game on the big stage, and to actually win the last game,” Judah said.
“I couldn’t stop smiling,” Kanyon said. “I just kept on running back and forth, hugging teammates. Everybody was just yelling.”
In the chaos, Kanyon looked to the stands. There, he saw his parents, Perry and Loretta. They were jubilant — Perry was in a pose of celebration yet again. Kanyon  gave them a wave.
The celebration spilled into the locker room, where the mood was buoyant.
“It’s no secret that after a win in our locker room we like to celebrate,” Kanyon said. “So everybody was jumping around. They had the music blasting. Everybody was dancing. We probably danced for a good 15, 20 minutes.”
“It was pandemonium,” J.D. said. “The music was deafening. Everyone was just running around acting stupid, taking a billion pictures. It was a circus in there.”
“We were trying not to let that moment go, trying to experience every part of it and exhaust the moment, get everything out of it,” Judah said. “You know, that doesn’t come around all the time.”
Jeff and Perry know that all too well. They were around the program in the years between the championships, and they observed the ebbs and flows of success. In the months that have followed the highs of the 2016 National Championship, they have passed on the wisdom they had acquired.
“It’s not about just being an All-American, it’s not about just winning a national championship, but it’s about sharing your gifts with others — especially with your family,” Jeff told J.D. and Judah.
“Football is important,” Perry told Kanyon. “I love football. But life is so much bigger, so much grander. There are students on the other side of campus who are not affiliated with football who need you. And you need them. Because 10 years down the road, 20 years down the road, friendship lasts forever. And it’s not just because of running down the Hill. It’s the greatest four years of your life.”
— This story was edited by Courtney Meola ’17.