The Clemson Tigers will have more than revenge on their minds when they play the Alabama Crimson Tide on Monday night in the College Football Playoff National Championship. They'll also have the rare chance to honor a school legend.Dwight Clark, who died in June after a battle with ALS, forever will be remembered at Levi's Stadium -- site of the national title game -- with a statue depicting his famous role in "The Catch."
Senior linebacker Jalen Williams -- who wears No. 30, as Clark did at Clemson -- knows how he and his teammates will feel when the team bus rolls up to Levi's. Clemson will have even more motivation, thanks to the memory of the former 49ers All-Pro receiver, who played three seasons as a Tiger, from 1976 through 1978. “To have his statue right outside the stadium, when we pull in and get dressed for the game, the whole team’s gonna be fired up," Williams told NBC Sports Bay Area at media day Saturday at SAP Center.Williams didn't know he was wearing the same number as Clark did when he first arrived at Clemson. He now realizes just how big of a deal it is.
“I kind of dug into it myself," Williams said. "I found out about his statue just recently, so I just realized how significant the number is." Dabo Swinney, Clemson's coach, is making sure his team understands the opportunity it has. When the Tigers arrived in the Bay Area on Friday, Swinney explained what Dwight Clark the person, not the football player, meant to him."It’s really kind of unique. He actually called me not long before that (Clark's passing) and I had sent him a jersey," Swinney said. "I kept his voicemail. I couldn't delete it. It took him a while to get the message out, but he was so appreciative of that jersey.
"I mean, here’s a guy who’s got Super Bowl rings and you name it, and he was talking about how he couldn’t wait to frame that jersey and put it up in his office and how he still roots for his Tigers.”
Swinney also said there are plans for Clemson to honor Clark in Monday's game, and taking a team picture in front of the statue is expected, if the weather holds up.This will be the fourth time Clemson has played Alabama in the College Football Playoff and the third time in the championship game. This time, it's about more than hardware.
"At Clemson, our culture and our dynasty, it didn’t start with us. It started 30 years ago with people like Dwight Clark," Williams said. "We’re just trying to do anything we can to fight for the ones who came before us.”