In 1982, Kendall Alley was playing wide receiver when Clemson University won its first and only national championship game.
More than three decades later, Alley is one of the most prominent bankers in Charlotte, where his job is to help Wells Fargo grow business as the head of community banking for the region.
But on Thursday, Alley won’t be thinking much about finance, as he attends the Orange Bowl in Miami Gardens, Fla., and roots for his 13-0 Tigers in their matchup with the 11-1 Oklahoma Sooners. The winner of that semifinal game will compete for the national championship Jan. 11 in Arizona.
Alley says he has fond memories of his four seasons as a Tiger and of playing in the 1982 game, which pitted Clemson against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The South Carolina school won 22-15, making Danny Ford the youngest coach to win a national college football championship.
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“We were the underdogs going in,” Alley said. “Our team was very talented, had a lot of really good players. It was just an exciting time and a lot of fun.”
Although Alley is no longer helping the Tigers win games, his son Zac Alley is.
Zac, who graduated from Clemson a year ago, now serves as a graduate assistant for the Tigers. His duties include film analysis. Unlike his father, he didn’t play for the Tigers while attending Clemson.
Alley, whose football experience includes playing for North Rowan High School, said the game draws parallels to banking. San Francisco-based Wells Fargo is the second-largest bank by deposits in Charlotte, the home base for No. 1 Bank of America.
“Every day, we line up, and we do business against some very good competitors,” Alley said.
Alley, who will chair the Charlotte Chamber in 2018, said he learned lessons from his football days that he has applied throughout his banking career, such as the importance of hard work. During the last recession, which created challenges for banks, he reflected on those lessons, he said.
“Everything about college football prepares you for a lot of things you face in business and life.”