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. “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.” 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.