Camp allows fans to appreciate players

CLEMSON — Chris Clark and his father David were getting so jealous of their wives annual trip to Clemson's for the Ladies Day Clinic, they contemplated different ways in which they could sneak in.

"We almost dressed up as women to sneak in the women's clinic so we did not want to go that route," Chris Clark said Sunday.

Luckily for the Clark men, first-year Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney came up with an idea to give the men an inside look at the Clemson football program. Clark and his father, along with 11 other men, spent the weekend at Swinney's first Clemson Fantasy Camp and capped it off with the All-in Bowl at Memorial Stadium.

"It was nice that Coach Swinney put this on for us (men)," said Clark, a 1995 Clemson graduate from Atlanta. "We used to always be so jealous of my Mom and my wife getting to go to women's clinics and we always said that if something like this would happen we would definitely go. When it came out, Dad called me up and said we have to go.

"So even in a tough economy we found a way to get up here and share this experience together so this is something I will never forget."

What makes it even more special was the fact Clark was named the Most Valuable Player of the All-in Bowl after intercepting three passes, while returning one for a touchdown as his team, which was the black team, beat the white team, 31-28, in overtime.

"The game itself was fun and was actually very competitive," Swinney said. "I thought it went really well for our first time. We tried to make everything as realistic as we possibly could. Today was a great culmination of the weekend."

Clark gave the game ball to his father to take back with him to Charleston. David Clark was unable to play in the game after hurting his calf muscle during pregame warm ups.

"I wanted to go out there and do well in the game," Chris Clark said. "I got the touchdown and I wanted to give him the ball after I got it. It meant a lot to win the MVP. I will be sending that game ball back with Dad to Charleston as I head back to Atlanta."

Clark was just one of many Sunday that left Death Valley, not only happy, but a little more appreciative as to what it takes for the coaches to run a big-time program and what it takes for the players to be ready to play on fall Saturday afternoons.

"I have a better understanding of the game, the Xs and the Os," said Spartanburg's Floyd Elliott, whose trip to the Fantasy Camp was a birthday present from his wife. "When I watch a game, I'm probably going to be ruined because I will probably see exactly what's going to happen before it occurs.

"I have been around sports all of my life, but I really did not know how intense it was until I really got in there. They crammed a great deal of information on us in two days and then we had to go to the practice field and go through the practice drills and we were worn out on the warm ups and then we had to still do the drills.

"The thing is you have a great appreciation for what these young men have to go through. If 80,000 people can come in here and take this fantasy camp, then they will understand that."

Chris Clark understands that.

"This is something that you follow all of your life and it's a part of the family. It's a part of you," he said. "It definitely ranks up there as one of the top things I've done in my life because it is something you have grown up with.

"(Clemson) has a special place in my heart and to be able to put myself in these cleats and these pads and get out here and have kind of a little bit of an idea of what these players go through and what kind of commitment it takes for them to get ready for the season — it just really helps put everything into perspective when you see these guys take the field." Top Stories