CLEMSON – Clemson’s football players won’t be home for Christmas, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be immersed in a festive atmosphere for at least part of the day Tuesday.
“You never know with Coach (Dabo) Swinney,” offensive tackle Sean Pollard said. “He’s liable to pull something out of the hat. I bet you he’ll come out in a Santa outfit or something, knowing him. It’ll be interesting to see what he does.”
Swinney is bullish on all holidays, but particularly Christmas.
The Tigers’ 10th-year coach hosts what he calls a “Santa on the Roof” gathering every year and still cherishes an old Frosty the Snowman figure that has been in the family since he was a kid.
Last Tuesday, the team was treated to a Christmas dinner, with players exchanging “Secret Santa” gifts.
Swinney then cut the players loose Thursday, with most going home for a few days to be with family and friends.
Christmas Day will mark the Tigers’ third day in Dallas as they continue preparations for a Cotton Bowl showdown against Notre Dame on Dec. 29.
The team will hold a three-hour practice session from 1:30 to 4:30 on Christmas Day at AT&T Stadium, but there’s likely to be more activities in the works.
“I’m sure he’s got something planned,” Clemson punter Will Spiers said of Swinney. “I heard rumors that maybe we’re making gingerbread houses or something like that. I wouldn’t be surprised if something like that went down.”
None of the players were looking forward to not being at home on Christmas, and many will be experiencing their first Christmas away from family.
“We’ve always had Christmas at home and I’m a big family guy so it’s going to be hard, I’m not going to lie to you,” junior safety Tanner Muse said. “But we’re going to be with the Clemson family, and that’s going to have to do.”
Muse, too, believes Swinney won’t let the day pass without injecting some fun and revelry.
“Oh, he always goes over the top,” Muse said. “I mean he has Christmas sweater parties. He loves the holidays in general, so hopefully he’s going to do it big.”
Sophomore linebacker Isaiah Simmons says he’ll miss Christmas dinner with the family most of all.
“This will be the first time (I’ve missed), so I don’t really know how I’m feeling about it,” Simmons said.
But it won’t be his first holiday away from home.
A native of Olathe, Kansas, he has missed the past couple of Thanksgivings, but is philosophical.
“I’m just going to treat this like a Thanksgiving,” he said. “And this is a business trip anyway.”
The best news for Simmons? His parents will be traveling to Dallas for the game.
Junior defensive end Clelin Ferrell plans on turning Christmas Day into a family affair – with his extended family.
“It’s going to be a good experience with my teammates,” Ferrell said. “And hopefully Dabo will have something that will make all worth the while.
“If we win, it’s going to make it a whole lot better. If we lose, it’ll be like, dang, that stinks.”
Freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence also put it in proper perspective.
“You’d like to be with your family (on Christmas Day), but to be in this situation is a blessing and we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” Lawrence said. “There are other teams that wish they were able to be away from home on Christmas and be in this situation.”