The Sumter Item has asked Sumter attorney Jack Barnes to give us a daily account of his experience of the National Championship game on Monday. Jack's son, James Barnes, is a sophomore backup quarterback at Clemson. He was the quarterback for Sumter High School for three years and led the Gamecocks to the state runner-up in class 4A. This is the final edition.
When I feel something in my bones, I am rarely wrong. This is not one of those rare instances, and I am delighted to say we won! Wow! Clemson is the 2016 National Champions. I love the way that rolls off the tongue. It was a great game and not just because we won. It came down to the final second, literally, and both teams gave everything they had to offer. We got our money's worth.
The travel team had a nice lunch outside by the bay and headed to Raymond James Stadium about 3 p.m. The younger members of the team headed over to watch Dierks Bentley perform at the Fan Fest while Sarah and I joined Greg and Danielle Thompson at their tailgate, along with Jeff and Jeanne Faw, Hal Turner, Sarah and Al Jordan and other Sumterites. As always, the Thompsons did it right, and it provided lots of good fun.
The game was like old home week for me. I saw folks I had not seen in 30 years. Most members of the travel team were sitting with other player families, but I ended up, as luck would have it, sitting by a friend from Clemson. It had only been two decades since we had spent much time together, but it was like riding a bike.
There was a fair amount of anxiety on the Clemson side for most of the game. We didn't take the lead until late in the game and the last two minutes crawled by. It was all worth it, and I am not ashamed to say I got a little verklempt listening to Dabo speak to the fans with the trophy in his hand. The waterworks started for everyone when we sang the Clemson Alma Mater. What a night!
After the game, the travel team joined the football team at the Grand Hyatt along with several thousand of our closest friends. The mood was amazing. When Dabo entered the lobby, the crowd went crazy with applause. James was elated. It was a good moment for his parents, too, and it was a fitting end to a great several days. The celebration broke up about 3:30 a.m. and we headed back across the causeway to get a couple - seriously - hours of sleep.
I appreciate the opportunity to write for The Sumter Item while in Tampa. It has given me the opportunity to reflect on the experience and really soak it all in. I am writing again from the shotgun of the XL SUV headed north on Interstate 75. The trip home is not so daunting with the Natty trophy headed to Tiger Town. Clemson let "the light inside" shine last night and today the Clemson flag is flying on the top of the mountain. Oh, and we aren't a fraud.