The Day Treadwell Booted Georgia

I felt a tap on my shoulder. "Scott, get up", my mom whispered in my ear. Groggy and disoriented, I thought my alarm had not gone off and I was late for school at Lexington High. A second or two passed, and realizing that it was not a school day but that it was Saturday, I rubbed my eyes and stared at my mom wondering what was wrong.

"We got 2 extra tickets late last night", she quietly told me. "You're coming with us to Athens for the game".

The first thing that I thought was…do I really want to go all the way to Athens? I had miserably sat through a hot day in Death Valley and watched Virginia Tech upset the Tigers 20-14 the week earlier. The year before, 1985, was a lackluster 6-6 year that left more frustration on my mind than reverence. And from the looks of the start to 1986, there was not much healing waiting around the bend. Besides, although I had never been to Athens, my most distasteful image of the city was from 2 years earlier when I painfully listened to Jim Phillips proclaim that Kevin Butler had kicked a 61 yard field goal to win the game for the Dawgs.

Nope, there were not many reasons to get out of that bed Saturday morning.

But I did. And it changed the way I viewed myself, and my support, of Clemson football forever.

So, I helped load up the car, called my friend Tommy Hucks and invited him to come along with the other extra ticket, and I piled my 14-year-old lanky frame into the car and we headed out with my parents.

The very first second I stepped out of the car, a loud and fat Georgia fan with a Hershel Walker jersey on yelled from his tailgate spot, "Go home Clemson boy, the Dawgs are gonna whup ya….ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff". Ok, so I'm not in Clemson anymore.

I don't remember the exact seats, but it was in the upper deck, on about the 15-yard line, and on the same side of the field as the Clemson bench. My first thought was with how loud the Georgia fans were when the Dawgs hit the field. The only road game I had been to, up until that point, was at Williams Brice Stadium in Columbia. I had always thought Williams Brice was loud. Not anymore. What rang in my ears in Athens was on a completely different decibel level.

The game was a mish mash of huge plays and tons of points…something I don't think to this day either Georgia or Clemson fans would have guessed. Clemson would score a touchdown, Georgia would answer.

The score was deadlocked at 28. The clock was ticking under 4 minutes to go in the game. And then…the world gently stopped spinning.

There are parts of that last Clemson drive that will never be forgotten, even if the player's names and exact yardage have blurred over the years. Rodney Williams threw one of the best passes of his Clemson career down the sideline on a 3rd down play that got Clemson out of the shadow of its own goal line. As the time ticked preciously away, Clemson marched closer and closer to their side of the field.

Closer, but not close enough.

Time had all but run out. Coach Ford had no choice but to march David Treadwell out to attempt a 46-yard field goal. Problem was, Treadwell had never made a kick that far in a game. Add to that the fact that he had missed horribly from less than 30 yards earlier in the game. I turned to my friend Tommy Hucks, shrugged my shoulders and said, "I guess a tie would not be so bad". Tommy, defiantly…or maybe naively, said, "He may just make it".

I can almost visualize every frame of the kick as it sailed through the air. I don't think one single breath was breathed in at Sanford Stadium during those precious 4 seconds the ball flew threw the air. My eyes strained to see what the signal was from the referees.

Hands up, IT'S GOOD!

The next 2 minutes were filled with hugs (a few with Tommy, but most with complete strangers sitting around me that just happened to be in orange). I must have jumped up and down 1000 times, threw my hands in the air 50 times, and said "I can't believe it" 25 times. The funny thing is, as happy as I was that Clemson had won the game, I hoped against all hope that the fat Georgia fan that had heckled me when I got out of my car was still at his tailgate spot when I got back. He was, and the look on his face was worth all the gold in the world. Priceless…and timeless.

I learned several fundamental things that day in Athens.

First, I learned that going to away games is almost as much fun as going to home games…especially if you win.

Secondly, I learned to never, ever, stay at home because I think there is little hope my Tigers will win the game.

Thirdly, I learned to always have faith when a player steps on that field. What they have proven before means little, they will always have an opportunity to give you a lifelong thrill.

And finally, I learned that I love Clemson playing Georgia. I love it when we beat them. But I also, strangely, love it when we lose. Our fans have more in common with each other than either would ever admit.

I have not been back to Athens to see Clemson play Georgia since that day. In fact, until last year's game between South Carolina and Georgia, I had not been back to Athens at all. It was as if the place was a Holy Shrine, never to be touched again because of the great joy it once gave me.

August 31st, I will return. The seats are in a different place, I am 15 years older, and Tommy Hucks will not be with me.

The outcome may be very different and I may go home very disappointed.

But, you know what? I may go home with a little of that 1986 feeling.

We just may go home winners.

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