Clemson's No. 1 fan

KANSAS CITY - When Alex Bushroe opened up his mailbox one day in the spring of 2008, what was inside was something he never expected in his wildest dreams. It was a letter addressed to him from the Clemson University men's basketball office.

There was no money inside nor a free trip to Hawaii, but what was there was something that meant a whole lot more to the Clemson student.

Inside the sealed envelope was an invitation from head coach Oliver Purnell to be his guest at the team's annual awards banquet.

"I was lucky," Bushroe said, thinking back with surprise.

Or was he?

It was no accident Bushroe was invited to the biggest event the basketball program holds for its players. In case you are wondering who Bushroe is, he is the young man that is entrenched under the basket in front of the pep band at Littlejohn Coliseum at every home game.

And so you know who I'm talking about, he is the one that is wearing the larger than life Tree Rollins No. 30 Clemson throwback jersey.

In his four years at Clemson, Bushroe has not missed a home game and has missed just three road games. He has been spotted at Miami for a regular season game, in Tampa for last year's NCAA Tournament and you guessed it, he was at the Sprint Center in Kansas City in March for the first-round game against Michigan in the NCAA Tournament.

It can be argued that Bushroe is perhaps Clemson's No. 1 fan, so actually it wasn't luck that he was invited to Clemson's basketball banquet. Instead, it was meant to be as Bushroe was not invited just as an attendee, but he was part of the banquet.

"I don't know who decided that I was worthy of going, but they gave me a 'Fan of the Year Award,'" Bushroe said.


"He is a guy you can identify with Clemson basketball because he is always there," Oliver Purnell said. "He has the unusual looking hairstyle and the Tree Rollins jersey and is very enthusiastic. He kind of symbolizes the rise and the enthusiasm around our program."

Turns out it may have been head coach Oliver Purnell who has noticed as much as anybody else.

"He is a guy you can identify with Clemson basketball because he is always there," Purnell told CUTigers in a recent interview. "He has the unusual looking hairstyle and the Tree Rollins jersey and is very enthusiastic. He kind of symbolizes the rise and the enthusiasm around our program."

It's a fitting award for a young man that became a Clemson fan by circumstance more than anything else.

Growing up as a young sports fan in Central Florida, Bushroe adopted Clemson as his favorite college team though he had no true ties to the university.

His love for the Tigers motivated him through high school and when he came to the decision on what college he wanted to attend, Clemson University was right at the top of his list.

"I just heard of Clemson when I was a kid and I started following them," said Bushroe. "I just became a bigger Clemson fan as I was growing up. When I started looking at schools, Clemson was near the top of the list because I had been cheering for them all of my life."

One of the biggest attractions in coming to Clemson for Bushroe was seeing his beloved Tigers play in person. Growing up an hour from Orlando, he really had the opportunity to see a Clemson game of any kind on location.

"I never had the opportunity to really come to games so I decided that when I came to Clemson I was going to go to every game I possibly could," the senior said.

Bushroe's first game was Clemson's dramatic 25-24 victory over Texas A&M in Death Valley in 2005. Then Clemson kicker Jad Dean kicked the winning field goal in the closing seconds that started a mass celebration throughout Memorial Stadium.

"That was my first time in Death Valley," he said. "I had seen a million games on TV, but I was never able to go."

Since then Bushroe has not missed many.

Like basketball, he has attended every home football game and baseball game since his freshman year. In fact he has missed just two games overall and they both took place during the 2008 season - at Boston College and at Wake Forest.

He isn't always able to follow the baseball team as closely, but he did make the long trip to Omaha, Neb., his freshman year for the College World Series.

"When I came here I said I was going to make as many games as I can and I have made that my thing," Bushroe said. "I have saved up for it most times. It's my thing."


"I got it my senior year in high school," Bushroe said. "I live about an hour from Orlando and was in Orlando randomly. I was in this outlet store and was walking around the store and I saw this giant Clemson jersey and I was like 'Cool, it's a Tree Rollins jersey.'

Bushroe has also had a little assistance from his father from time to time, including Clemson's Kansas City trip which he said was his birthday present from his dad.

"He will help me out because he is a fan as well," Bushroe said. "So if I need a little gas money, he throws a little bit my way. He always helps me out. I save up for it to. It is my No. 1 expense as a fan." In all, Bushroe has totaled more than 10,000 miles of travel time during his college career, yet he is still on course to graduate. He says most of the time he and his friends will pile up in the car and drive to road games and return back to Clemson that same night.

"I have spent a lot of hours sleeping in the car while my friends are driving," he said. "We just do whatever we can. Obviously, we didn't get to go to Illinois because it was on Tuesday night, but whatever is feasible."

And how did a kid who grew up near Orlando, Fla., come up with a replica Tree Rollins Clemson jersey?

"I got it my senior year in high school," Bushroe said. "I live about an hour from Orlando and was in Orlando randomly. I was in this outlet store and was walking around the store and I saw this giant Clemson jersey and I was like 'Cool, it's a Tree Rollins jersey.'

"So I looked at it and saw that it was $120, but it was marked down like five times and was $20. I was like screw it, it's only 20 buckets, I'm buying it.

"I made it my thing."

And though he grew up in Florida, Bushroe knew and respected what Tree Rollins meant to the Clemson basketball program, and that's why he wears his jersey so proudly to every Clemson game.

"I try to keep up with my Clemson history," he said. "I'm a big fan and I'm a huge sports fan and I always have been. I'm a huge Clemson fan.

"This is my favorite team, and now I have had the opportunity to meet these guys and have had the opportunity to get to know them and I come to the games. It is just awesome."

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