Oct. 28, 2011
CLEMSON, SC – Fifteen minutes before kickoff Friday night at Historic Riggs Field, Clemson Assistant Coach Alex Prostko came and pulled men’s soccer Sports Information Director Sam Blackman from the press box and into the locker room.
“I thought coach had a lineup change or something. I didn’t know what was going on,” Blackman said.
Clemson Head Coach Mike Noonan knew what was going on, and when Blackman entered the locker room the Tigers’ second-year coach presented him with a signed ball from the team for his 25 years of service and dedication to Clemson University and the soccer program.
Then he did something a coach only reserves for a special time, he had Blackman speak to the team. And Blackman made it special.
“I told them Clemson is a special place and that we should all be proud that we are here at Clemson,” Blackman said. “When you wear Clemson on your uniform, you should be very proud. You are lucky because not everyone gets to wear that uniform.
“Being a Clemson Tiger is very special to me, and lets be happy that we are all Clemson Tigers.”
And that’s exactly what they did. Despite being down a goal and a man after defender Jack Metcalf received a red card at the 23rd minute, Clemson rallied with two-second half goals, including the game-winner at the 84:25 mark by Phanuel Kavita to beat top-ranked Maryland 2-1.
It was the Tigers’ first win over a No. 1 ranked team since 2006 when they also beat Maryland 2-1.
“This was for Sammy,” Noonan said. “I told the guys that there is nobody that I have met since I have come to Clemson that cares about our soccer program and our athletic department more than Sammy. I said, `I hope that each one of you, sometime in your life can have a job that you are as passion about as Sammy is his.’
“I told them if they play with as much passion as Sammy shows every single day they will win the game. And they did it.”
Sharing Blackman’s passion for soccer and Clemson, especially, was Keegan Priest–the lone senior to be honored on Senior Night. Priest helped make his night even more special when his shot ricocheted off Maryland keeper Will Swaim and back to Kavita, who struck the ball from four yards for the winning goal.
Priest was credited with his third save of the season.
“To go out at Riggs like this is really special,” Priest said. “Coach (John) Murphy said to me that you could not have written up a better script for it. Beating the No. 1 team in the country in your last game (at home), and to go out and play like that, it means a lot to me.
“The effort all of those guys put in, it means the world to me.”
Priest said it also meant a lot to share his night with Blackman and be a part of a night that was so special to so many people.
“Sammy has done so much for us and is such a good supporter of the team and has so much passion. Coach (Noonan) was talking about his passion before the game and how much he brings everyday to us. It’s good to be going out with Sammy,” he said.
And when Blackman went into the locker room in an attempt to get Noonan for reporters following the Tigers’ historic victory, the Clemson coach pulled him and said, “Hey guys it’s Sammy!” And of all sudden the whole team brought Blackman into the celebration circle while padding him on the back and high-fiving him.
“In my 25 years at Clemson I have never experienced something like that,” Blackman said. “It is something I will always remember and I hope in some little way I helped Clemson tonight.”
Indeed he did.
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