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Perry Tuttle: Clemson’s first National Championship hero

35 years. 12,775 days. 

The drought that kept the Tigers tirelessly striving towards the ultimate goal, a National Championship:

January 1, 1982 to January 9,  2017. 

Two pivotal moments for Clemson Football. 

Everyone has pivotal moments in their life, which often shapes their direction. Perry Tuttle understands this better than most.

The 1981 National Championship was the beginning of fame for wide receiver Perry Tuttle. His famous catch put Clemson up 22-15 over No. 2 Nebraska in the biggest game of the year and was something he would never live down. 

This “pivotal moment” set the tone for a journey that Tuttle wasn’t prepared for, and one he claims that “no one can be prepared for.”

“No one talked to me about how there would be little boys who walked the streets in Clemson, wearing No. 22, listening to every word that came out of my mouth even when you don’t know they were around,” Tuttle said, “I knew it wasn’t about me anymore. I had to represent the 1981 team, and I had to represent Clemson University.”

Making “the winning catch” was a dream that Tuttle had fantasized about since the age of four. It followed him to college, where he spent night after night in his dorm room bed tossing up his football for hours before he would close

his eyes. 

 “I wanted that to be the last thing I saw before I went to sleep — catching the ball,” Tuttle said.  

The quarterback at the time, Homer Jordan, had a special relationship with Tuttle. They spent every spare moment putting in work, practicing

“the catch.”

Tuttle said, “Homer told me that if we ever get in a close game, to look for him. He told me he would nod his head and that was my cue to go to the corner of the end zone.”

Sure enough, in the huddle before that play, Homer told Perry to keep an eye on him, and a few minutes later they would be crowned National Champions.

This 1981 Cinderella story sounds familiar to Clemson Tigers today, for not too long ago, Hunter Renfrow caught this same winning pass in the corner of the end zone — a moment that made Clemson history. 

The National Championship was not the only thing that made 1981 and 2017 similar. Perry Tuttle described Head Coach Danny Ford and Head Coach Dabo Swinney as one and the same. 

 “They are both the most down-to-earth men I’ve ever met,” Tuttle said. “Both love their players before anything.”

After college, Tuttle spent three seasons playing in the NFL and six seasons playing in the CFL. His love for the game never went away, but it certainly changed over time. 

Tuttle started to notice the lack of fulfillment that it brought him, which led to his decision to retire in 1992 – two seasons after a championship win with his team the Blue Bombers. 

Today, he inspires athletes and coaches as a speaker, an author and the chaplain for the Charlotte Hornets. 

“I thought fame would give me privileges, but what I found out, and what changed me, is realizing how little privileges fame gives you.” 

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