When I transferred to Clemson in the fall of 2006, I was looking for a better “college experience.” The university I had left behind was low on school spirit; they didn’t even have a football team.
Clemson did not provide me with an experience; it transformed my life. I found a new family in those “Hills.” The color orange was no longer something to add to my wardrobe, it became my wardrobe. And while the “Hills” were certainly special, “The Hill” was sacred.
In the long history of Clemson, approximately 50 other students have had the same perspective I did when I first stepped to the top of The Hill on Labor Day Monday in 2007. With limited vision, gasping for air and fighting off heat exhaustion, I stood in front of the Death Valley faithful, ready to lead our team on to the field. The “C-L-E-M-S-O-N” chant that overcame the stadium, physically shaking my helmet, will forever be engrained in my mind. As the cannon sounded, I knew my life would never be the same. During the 2007-08 school year, I prowled the sidelines during a 23-21 victory in Columbia and an ACC Tournament in Charlotte that had our team in the championship game.
After graduating summa cum laude in the spring of 2009, I returned to my home state of New Jersey to begin a career in education. I love exploring the subject of social studies with my high school students, but if you were to ask any of my students where my true passion lies, they would all answer, “Clemson!” My students know that the Tiger does push-ups after every score, that Friday is always solid orange and that my mood on a Monday in the fall is largely dependent on the Saturday that precedes it.
Daniel Licata is a social studies teacher at Palmyra High School in Palmyra, New Jersey. He recently won the teacher of the year award and led the varsity baseball program to their second consecutive division championship, the first time for the school since the 1930s. He served as the Tiger mascot in 2007 and 2008.