A little wave never hurt any one.
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.
Celebrating 60 Years of The Tiger
Sixty years ago, the Clemson family grew by one, one who quickly became one of the most recognizable, lovable and iconic members of the family: the Tiger mascot.
He’s been to every football game since his welcome to the Clemson family, done thousands of push-ups, visited hospitals and even danced at weddings. But only the select few actually have had the honor of bringing life to the Tiger.
With around 350 appearances each year, committing to being the “man in the suit” is no small feat. These men must travel frequently and train extensively, spending hours brainstorming and executing creative and entertaining stunts, mastering the mascot’s mannerisms and practicing hundreds of push-ups in preparation for sporting events all while still balancing a full student workload.
Michael Bays ’97, M ’99, Tiger mascot from 1994 through 1997 and record holder for most push-ups in his career, organized a reunion of former Tigers during Homecoming to share stories and memories of their glory days behind the mask as a celebration of the Tiger’s 60th birthday.
“Not only did being the Tiger bring me closer to my school,” said Bays, “but it also brought me closer to many people and taught me that the most important thing is putting a smile on a person’s face.”
An impressive total of 35 alumni and former Tiger mascots gathered together to tailgate, reunite at Death Valley and honor the birthday of their beloved mascot. Among others, this group included several Tiger legends such as Zach Mills ’80, inventor of the push-up tradition, push-up record-setters like Bays, and the oldest living Tigers, Billy McCown ’60 and *Steve “Frog” Morrison ’63.
“I think all of us feel a special connection to Clemson that nobody else can ever understand,” said Bays. “When the Tiger is around, it is magic. All I can say is that with 35 Tigers around, the magic is indescribable.”
For more stories of Mascots though the years, go to clemson.edu/clemsonworld and click on “Alumni Profiles.”