Thanks for the Memories

As the curtain came down on the 2006 season Friday afternoon in Nashville a number of players walked off the field in orange for the last time. Before we look to the New Year and hopes of improvement, let's take time to thank the senior class for all the great memories.

Although the season finished well short of a number of goals that were set last spring and summer, there is no question that the 2006 senior class leaves Tigertown with the football program on much sounder footing than when they arrived on campus for the first time.

Let's take a look at some of the accomplishments of the 2006 senior class:

- The first senior class in ACC history to defeat Florida State three times.

- Eight wins over top 20 teams ties a Clemson record for a senior class.

- Four wins over top 10 teams ties a Clemson record for a senior class. The Tigers defeated Tennessee (6th), Florida State (3rd and 9th) and Miami (10th).

- After one of the greatest Saturday's for the Clemson football program, the Tigers received their first top 10 ranking in six years.

- ESPN GameDay came to Clemson for the first time.

- - Clemson had a 26-game streak without suffering a loss of over six points. This was the longest streak by a Clemson class in 100 years.

- Clemson had consecutive eight-win seasons as juniors and seniors. This was a first for a Clemson class since 1991.

- Finished with a 2-1 bowl record.

Of course, it goes without saying Clemson fans will look back at the careers of this year's class with fond memories.

Chansi Stuckey will be remembered for his 11 catch performance against Florida State in 2005 that helped lead the Tigers to a 35-14 romp. Stuckey, who was the first Clemson receiver to make First-Team All-ACC since Perry Tuttle, led the ACC in receptions per game and reception yards per game in 2005 and finished second in both categories in 2006.

The memories of Gaines Adams are numerous, but one memory will stand out for the thousands of Clemson fans that made the trip to Winston Salem in 2006 to see the Tigers stun the Deacons in the fourth quarter.

After standing in the rain for three quarters Clemson fans wondered if anyone would step-up to make a game changing play. Adams took victory from the hands of Wake Forest as he took the ball from the holder and rumbled for a touchdown that would light the fire needed to lead the Tigers to victory.

After deciding his degree was top priority Anthony Waters decided to return for his final season. Waters was the top tackler for the Tigers 11th-ranked scoring defensive in 2006. In a season filled with injuries, perhaps no injury had as big of an impact as Anthony Waters. A season ending torn ACL sidelined Waters in the second half of the Florida Atlantic game, but Waters continued to play an important leadership role for the Tigers.

Nowhere did this year's senior class have more of an impact than on the offensive line. When Roman Fry, Dustin Fry, Marion Dukes and Nathan Bennett arrived on campus the offensive line was one of the biggest areas of needs for the Tigers. As they finished their careers the offensive line was the strength of the team. Going into the Music City bowl the Tigers were fifth in the nation in rushing and third in fewest sacks allowed.

The Clemson rushing game never recovered from the injury of Roman Fry this season.

The Tigers had the nations No. 1 scoring offense and one of the top rushing attacks in the nation before Fry went down with a torn ACL. At mid season, Fry was an All-American according to SI.com and CollegFootballNews.com. Clemson fans will remember Roman as "Mr. Versatility." The talented lineman could play wherever the staff needed him to play.

Dustin Fry has played more snaps than any Clemson player for the past two seasons. The former Summerville standout was selected first-team All-ACC this season by CollegeFootballNews.com. Tiger nation will fondly remember Dustin and the rest of the line leading the way as Clemson had 321 yards rushing against Georgia Tech including a 200-yard and 100-yard rusher for the first time in school history.

Tiger fans will remember Nathan Bennett as a warrior. Bennett could be found rallying the fans and his teammates or making sure the opposing defensive line knew that he owned them.

Nathan was named First-Team All-ACC in 2006 and Third-team Associated Press All-American. The former Paulding County High standout played in 47 games for Clemson including 38 starts. Bennett also had an impressive performance against Georgia Tech where he had 10 knockdown blocks.

For the past 36 games Clemson fans knew that Marion Dukes would perform well as he started at tackle. Marion did not get some of the recognition that his fellow linemen received, but his 36 straight starts is the longest active string on the team.

The Pickens County product was called on to help early in his career as he did not redshirt his freshman year. Tiger nation will fondly remember Marion's 14.5 knockdown blocks against Wake Forest this year.

In 2003 Thomas Hunter walked on to the Tigers in hopes that he could make the team and one day run down the hill. Clemson fans will never forget the lead block that Hunter made to help James Davis score the game-winning touchdown with 8 seconds remaining against Florida State. Fans will also remember the 71-yard reception against Maryland that happened to be the longest pass reception by a Clemson tight end in history. Hunter ends his career as a two-year starter and his 305 yards were the most for a Clemson tight end since Bennie Cunningham in 1975.

No player has received more fan support than Reggie Merriweather. The cheers of "Reggie, Reggie, Reggie" will continue to echo through the Valley for years. Tiger fans will also remember the game winning 38-yard touchdown run that helped Clemson leave College Park with a victory in 2005.

Naples High standout Duane Coleman headed to Tigertown as a partial-qualifier who had 40 touchdowns and rushed for 2,814 yards his senior season. He leaves Clemson as a college graduate and a defensive back. Coleman led the Tigers in rushing as a freshman in 2003. Tiger fans will remember Coleman helping lead Clemson to the Peach Bowl victory in 2003. The talented athlete moved to defensive back in 2005 as he saw the opportunity to help his team more on defense. Coleman started the last 15 games before the bowl game in the secondary and finished the season fourth in tackles with 81.

After an outstanding junior season where Jad Dean finished as one of three finalists for the Lou Groza Award, the 2006 season was somewhat of a disappointment.

Clemson fans will remember Dean's winning field goal against Texas A&M with two seconds remaining to start the 2005 season. Dean's six field goals against #17 Texas A&M earned him the USA Today National Player-of-the-Week honors. Field goals of 22, 25, 27 and 32 yards from Dean were Clemson's only points this year against Maryland in 2006. The former Greenwood standout was 12-of-15 on field goals in 2004, 24-31 in 2005 and 15-22 this year.

The memories of fifth year quarterback Will Proctor will begin with his performance leading Clemson to their first victory at Florida State since 1989. Tiger fans will remember Proctor's 20-yard touchdown scramble in the third quarter against the Noles. Proctor will also be remembered for coming in for injured Charlie Whitehurst against Texas A&M in 2005 and helping lead a fourth quarter victory over the 17thn ranked Aggies. Proctor finishes his career as Clemson's career leader in passing efficiency and second in Clemson history in completion percentage.

Time will heal some of the wounds of the 2006 campaign for these seniors and they will look back and realize that they laid the foundation for brighter days ahead for the Clemson football program. The 2006 senior class has represented Clemson University well both on and off the field.

Best wishes for future success and thanks for the memories.

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