It's not all basketball for Ray

CLEMSON - Rick Ray couldn't help but chuckle as he recounted his first visit to Clemson.

It was late November in 2007 and Ray had just started his second season as an assistant at Purdue under Matt Painter.

While on a jog before the Boilermakers and Tigers faced off in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge, Ray decided to give himself a personal tour of Death Valley, complete with a look at Howard's Rock and run down the hill.

"I had always seen Clemson football on TV, the tradition of doing it. I figured, I was on campus, I was out taking a jog," Ray told in a recent interview, "If I could finagle my way over there a little bit, go down [the hill] and touch the rock, that'd be great. It was just something that I wanted to do."

So he went for it, but there was a problem, the stadium was locked up.

"I went around to every exit," he said. "Then, there was somebody coming out, as they were leaving out, I slipped in behind them really quick to get in there, so I could get a chance to do it."

The cover protecting the rock kept Ray from getting his hands on it, but he did manage to experience a run down the hill.

"I just basically wanted to see it and get a chance to storm down," he said.

The hill, the rock, they're a must-see for any college football fan, and Ray certainly is just that.

"If I was not soft and could deal with the elements of football, I would have probably be a football coach, rather than a basketball coach," he said. "I like the controlled climates of being indoors in a basketball gym, but I'm a huge college football fan."

Fast-forward to the spring of 2010.

An opportunity, almost too good to pass up presented itself.

Leaving Purdue was tough. The destination made it a more manageable choice. Ray remembered his first experience in Littlejohn Coliseum.

"I do remember the environment of us being here when we played Clemson. That's always the thing I took away from it," he said. "I thought the fans were enthusiastic. I thought it was a great environment at Littlejohn. The other thing, obviously, getting a chance to work for Brad [Brownell].

"I had known Brad for a long time, because of affiliations. The guy I worked for at Indiana State was his college coach. We've had connections from that point and time. The title of being associate head coach, what that would mean for me in my career, moving forward, played a big part in it as well.

"I always wanted to live, if I can, in the southeast. The way of life is so much better down here -- southern hospitality, the warm climate. I just like it."

The transition has been a smooth one.

"The way the fans are, the way they've been so inviting to me, my's just been great," Ray said.

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