No more ‘stupid’ comments

Published 1:03 am Wednesday, February 10, 2016

For years, our extended family gathered at Lake Eufaula on Labor Day weekend, renting a row of cabins in the state park. The weekend coincides with the start of college football, and we have some serious fans in our family – with Auburn, Alabama, and Florida State represented.

It came to pass on one of these weekends that Auburn opened the season against Clemson, as it will do this fall. They were giving Auburn a rough go of it. As we sat monitoring all of our teams, an aunt who was back in the cabin babysitting texted a commentary on the game to the War Eagle fans among us.

“Stupid Clemson,” it said.

If you consider her comment unkind, it’s the most unkind thing I’ve ever heard her say. My grandmother always said she was the sweetest one. But it was funny because she said it, and it became a part of the family vernacular. In our language, it means, “Your team may not be my team, but I oppose anyone who would cross you … in football or anywhere else.”

Clemson was far from stupid this year, but she still sent me the funny phrase in a text message during the championship game, when the Tigers were opposing my team.

After this week, I think we’ll have to stop with that comment.

That Clemson’s Dabo Swinney is an Alabama native and a former Tide player are reasons enough to like him. But this week I like him even more.

Back in the day, when Dabo had a teammate named Kevin Turner. The story goes Dabo was about to be hit hard in practice by one of ‘Bama’s massive linebackers when Turner moved in and hit him. Dabo jokes that Turner saved his life.

Later, the two men worked in the same real estate office in Birmimgham. When Dabo was named interim head coach in the middle of the ’08 season, Turner joined him as an “emergency grad assistant” to help him through the season.

That was after Turner’s time in the NFL, and before his diagnosis of ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, in 2010. Turner’s fight has been very public. He now requires constant care.

But this week, Turner got an awesome gift. His old friend Dabo signed Turner’s son Nolan, a 6-foot-2, 188-pound safety from Vestavia.

As a junior, Clemson offered Nolan a preferred walk-on opportunity. But a solid senior season and the departure for the NFL of some key Clemson players changed that. Nolan Turner got a full ride.

When Dabo dropped by Nolan’s school with the offer, young Nolan didn’t even let him finish his spiel. He interrupted him and asked, “Coach, can I commit now?”

Dabo’s answer?

“Yes, son. Absolutely, you can.”

Time will tell if young Turner can be the leader Dabo expects, or if Dabo’s old friend Kevin will ever see his son play, but knowing that he will be playing for his friend must certainly have strengthened his will to live. And if you got through Paul Payne’s story about this in The Advertiser without shedding a few tears, you are far stronger than I.

No more “stupid Clemson” from this camp.

Michele Gerlach is publisher of The Star-News.