In the South, cooking for your team’s football game is almost as sacred as cooking for Christmas, and game day always means good eating.
Tigers of all military branches — active duty and retired — gathered with their Tiger Rags at a tailgate during Military Appreciation weekend. From left to right, David Allen, petty officer 3rd class (retired); Joey Pace, sergeant major (retired); Michelle Noel, colonel (retired); Rebecca L. Stratford ’10, captain; William J. Stratford ’09, first lieutenant; William Matheny Jr. ’00, lieutenant colonel; and Stephen Noel ’03, major.
“Bennie Cunningham was a man whose priorities were family and friendship — and the line was fuzzy between the two.”
December 23, 1954 – April 23, 2018
He has been called the greatest tight end in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The first African-American football player to make an All-America team in school history, he came to Clemson in 1972 and played on the football team from 1972 to 1975. He was a first-round draft choice of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1976, and he played for that team until 1985, bringing home two Super Bowl rings. He was one of the greats of college and professional football. Yet, while his fame may have come from his prowess on the football field, his legacy was the many lives he touched and changed in those years and the years since.
Bennie Cunningham passed away on April 23, 2018, at the age of 63 after a battle with cancer.
When Cunningham retired from the Steelers, he returned to the classroom, first to finish his bachelor’s degree and then to earn a master’s degree in secondary education. He went on to a long career as a guidance counselor at West Oak High School in Westminster, where he shared his wisdom and direction with thousands of students over the years.
At his funeral at Seneca Baptist Church, filled to capacity with family, former teammates, professional colleagues and friends, the stories made it clear that Bennie Cunningham was a man whose priorities were family and friendship — and the line was fuzzy between the two. Friends became family.
Cunningham’s son, Bennie Cunningham III ’10, talked about his father’s legacy at Clemson, in Pittsburgh, and with his family: “My father planted trees that he may never have enjoyed the fruit from, and I think that’s our purpose: planting trees we may not enjoy the fruit of.”
As a student at Clemson, Cunningham won the Frank Howard Award, presented to an athlete each year for “bringing honor to Clemson.” He continued throughout his life to bring honor to Clemson. Coach Dabo Swinney called him “one of our greatest players, arguably the greatest tight end in our history and ACC history.”
But Swinney went on to say that “more importantly was the way he represented Clemson as a professional athlete and in his life after football.”
We are grateful for the life of Bennie Cunningham, and grateful that this was his Clemson.
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.
My name is Eric Mac Lain, and this past December, I became a Clemson alumnus. It was a day I thought would never come, but now that I am reflecting on it, I realize it happened in what seemed to be a blink of an eye.
My experiences at Clemson were second to none. I was very fortunate to have been a team captain during our special 2015 football season (14-1), losing only to Alabama in the National Championship. I graduated with a B.S. in health science and was able to start my master’s program in athletic leadership. This past fall, I had the honor of introducing Vice President Joe Biden when he spoke at Clemson.
More important than all of that, I found my future wife at Clemson. We met freshman year because she and my roommate were family friends, and I tagged along to a cookout. We became good friends and started dating two years later. So the phrase Clemson family is very real to me! Her father and other relatives went to Clemson, and both of our brothers now attend Clemson. It is safe to say that orange will run in our bloodlines for many years to come.
There is something special about Clemson that’s not true about every other University. As soon as we aren’t at Clemson or at least nearby, we miss it. I can attest to this because I have been away this spring training for the NFL, and cannot wait to be back in Tiger town.
I’m Eric Mac Lain and this is MY Clemson. CU soon!
You probably saw Eric Mac Lain during the coverage of the Orange Bowl and the National Championship as he was being interviewed by what seemed like every reporter in the country. Click on the photos below to see more about Eric’s life at Clemson.
After such an incredible football season, we knew we had to make the journey out to Phoenix to see our Tigers play for the National Championship. We couldn’t pass up the drive to the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon during our time there. The view speaks for itself and singing the Cadence Count with surrounding Clemson fans while overlooking the Canyon is a memory we are all sure to never forget.
Pictured from left to right: Austin Luttrell (current senior), Ellie Patterson (Class of 2014), Emsley Lewis (Class of 2014), Jacob Cook (current senior) and Dylan Caulder (Class of 2014).