As Clemson prepares for its annual rivalry game against South Carolina on Saturday, defensive end Clelin Ferrell answered a question about his first taste of the Palmetto rivalry with a story about his recruiting trip to Columbia.
The redshirt sophomore and Virginia native could only assume the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry was heated during the recruiting process, but he had a good grip on it by the time he was finished.
"After my first visit to Clemson, I took a visit to South Carolina. Mind you, it’s a little bit different down there," Ferrell said. "I’d say their fans take it a little bit differently than how ours do. None of us like each other, but we have two very different fan bases.
“I went to Waffle House, and some guy walked into the Waffle House in Columbia with a Clemson shirt on. Next thing I know, I see people trying to fight him and stuff like that.”
Ferrell didn't say how the experience influenced his college decision, but a few months into his redshirt season with the Tigers, he got another taste of what this rivalry means to the fans.
It made a lasting impact on him.
“From what I’ve seen, I’ve seen them take it a little too far. Obviously, I haven’t played in a game there but my redshirt year when I went up there, they were kind of throwing stuff at us on the sidelines," he said, "but I mean, fans do that everywhere. It was just kind of my first experience with that. I didn’t’ really understand how serious the rivalry was but when I saw that it was kind of more so like, ‘OK, it’s a really heated battle right now.’”
Linebacker Kendall Joseph played in the game Ferrell referred to in 2015; he said he didn't see Gamecock fans throw anything at Clemson players and downplayed those fans' behavior as anything other than passionate.
“I think they definitely take it very seriously. I don’t know if it’s ever too serious. It’s a lot of pride and respect involved in it," Joseph said. "We have very passionate fans at Clemson and South Carolina has great fans as well, we’re just clashing together. That’s what two great programs should do.”
Joseph said the noon start in 2015 probably won't compare to Saturday's 7:30 p.m. kickoff and looks forward to entering yet another hostile environment.
The Tigers beat Virginia Tech in a primetime matchup at one of the nation's toughest venues, but playing in front of 65,000+ screaming Hokie fans is a different challenge than the more than 80,000 fans waiting for them at Williams-Brice Stadium.
"As players, we don’t mind it. We like all that edge they bring and the hate they have for us. It helps us kind of zone in," Joseph said. "There’s no better feeling than going into a (hostile) territory and everybody’s rooting against you except for the people in orange. That’s all you need, all you need is your brothers. It kind of gives us that ‘we’re all we’ve got, we’re all we need’ kind of feeling.”