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Oct 26, 2019

Jimmy Addison – Bond Distinguished Athletes Award

By: Sanford Rogers

Note: The following appears in the Boston College gameday football program.


College football recruiting is now a season into itself. Most fans have an idea who their favorite team is interested in well before a young man has reached his senior year of high school. With the way college football is today, most Tiger fans would not believe the narrative of how Clemson Hall of Famer Jimmy Addison, who today receives the Bond Distinguished Athletes Award, found his way to Tigertown.

Addison, a native of Fairfax, Ala., had an outstanding high school career, but at the time of his high school graduation, he weighed only 135 pounds. The plan was to attend junior college with the hopes of playing college basketball as his small frame added weight. All that changed when he returned home late one evening from an American Legion baseball contest.

“I was playing with the Auburn American Legion team and we had a game in northern Alabama. When I got home, the light in the living room was on. In my house, if a light was on that time of the night, someone had died.”

But that was not the case that evening. Unbeknownst to him, another Alabama great with Clemson ties had spent the day in Fairfax. Fred Cone, former Tiger great (Clemson Ring of Honor member) was an assistant for Frank Howard. Cone was watching tape at the local high school when Addison’s play stood out.

As the day progressed, Cone became more and more interested in the small quarterback who would go on to be nicknamed “The Needle.” Cone was surprised that Addison had not decided on a college destination and was still on the market. He then spent several hours with Addison’s parents (Virginia, Bill). A scholarship had been agreed to in the living room before Addison had even returned home.

“When I walked in the living room, Coach Fred Cone was there with my mom and dad,” recalled Addison. “They had already accepted a scholarship. It was fortuitous that I was not there. Coach Cone told me later that if he had seen me, I would not have been at Clemson. It is hard to play football when you are only 135 pounds.”

There were other hurdles for Addison to clear. Early the next morning, Cone and Addison made their way to Clemson. Practice had already been going on for four weeks and school had been in session for two weeks. Addison had taken the ACT in high school, but Clemson required an SAT score for admission.

Less than 48 hours from playing an American Legion game in Alabama, he had taken the SAT, was enrolled at Clemson and was the ninth quarterback on the roster.

“You could certainly say it was one of the most unusual set of circumstances that one could contrive. But looking back on it, it was like leaving one great family for another one. I knew no one when I came to Clemson, but my best friends today come from my college days and will remain that way for the rest of my life.”

The success Addison had at Clemson, both on the gridiron and in the classroom, makes one believe that Cone’s trip to Fairfax was meant to be. Addison led Clemson to three ACC titles (1965,66,67). He was named All-ACC in 1966 and was a two-time All-ACC Academic choice. He also received the Norris Medal in 1968, given to the best all-around graduating senior.

Following graduation, Addison earned his law degree from Virginia, and before retiring five years ago, he spent nearly 40 years in real estate law with the renowned Troutman Sanders firm in Atlanta, Ga., and was named a partner in 1976.

Despite such a busy work schedule, Addison has always had time for Clemson. He has served the university in many ways over the years, including the Clemson University Foundation as vice chair and Advancement Board for the School of Humanities.

With all of the success at Clemson and in life after college, Addison is just what a Bond Distinguished Athletes Award recipient is made of.

“This is quite an honor that I’m very appreciative of. I feel very undeserving of such recognition after knowing who has been awarded this before me. I have had an opportunity to meet Margaret Bond and told her how much this means to me.”

The Bond Distinguished Athletes Award was created to honor Tiger athletes who exemplify character, citizenship and service. To qualify for the award, a candidate must have lettered in a sport, have been 10+ years from his or her graduation year and have given back in some way to Clemson University and their community.

The award is symbolized by a customized gold ring, which is presented each year at a Clemson football game. The recipient’s name is displayed on a plaque in Nieri Family Student-Athlete Enrichment Center. On the plaque, a note from the late Steve Bond sums up the award’s purpose.

“We are thankful for all you did for Clemson and Clemson athletics, but we are even more thankful for the type of person, steward and role model you have become in your life at Clemson.”

“We wanted to give something different from a trophy so that when the recipient wears this ring, it is a reminder of everything they love about Clemson,” said Margaret.

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