There is a Clemson helmet in his Lake Wylie real estate office, and a No. 71 jersey, but the size gives Dan Benish away even before he talks of his role on the 1982 Clemson football national championship team.
At 6-foot-6, and a biscuit under 350 pounds, Benish could work part time as the Lake Wylie Dam.
Benish, 56, is proud of his time as a starting defensive tackle on Clemson’s last national title team. But he’s more proud of his nephew Mitch Hyatt. Wearing No. 75 and standing 6-foot-6, 305 pounds, Hyatt is a starting offensive tackle on the Clemson team that will play Alabama for the national championship.
“My best advice to him is that he take it all in, enjoy the moment,” Benish said. “An offensive lineman is like a duck. Something happens, you have to let it roll off your back and keep going. Don’t be uptight, realize where you are and what you are doing.”
And be great.
Dan Benish knows what it is to be great and to play your best on the biggest stage. He won a collegiate national championship and a National Football League title with the Washington Redskins. He has both rings. The gold and jeweled rings could fit a telephone pole and weigh seemingly a half pound between them.
He earned them.
“There’s only one way to get a ring,” Benish said. “You win.”
Benish is originally from Ohio, and his nephew grew up in Georgia. Benish played football three hours away 35 years ago in Death Valley. So why is he living and working in Lake Wylie and Clover? Clemson, that’s why.
For western York County Clemson fans, football is religion, and life and passion. Game days are not football, but pilgrimages.
Benish was a young player from Ohio at Clemson in 1979 when he met York County tailgaters outside the stadium after a game.
“I was made part of the family right then and there,” Benish said. “I still am.”
One of Benish’s partners in The Home Team real estate company is Clover native Brad Harvey. Harvey and Benish have been like brothers since that 1979 meeting and now are business partners.
But far more important, they are Clemson men.
“Yes, we both flew to Arizona last week to watch Clemson beat Ohio State,” Harvey said. “Yes, we are going to be there in Florida for Alabama. It’s Alabama. The gold standard. ‘Bama. Its...”
Harvey’s voice cracks. This is Clemson, the national title game, second year in a row.
‘It’s a rematch,” said Benish, so close to Harvey that the thought and sentence was in both their heads.
For Harvey the game means being a fan all his life. For Benish, the game means being just as much a fan, but also having played and won a national championship game -- Jan. 1, 1982, when Benish and his teammates beat Nebraska.
Yet Benish is not a football fan who claims his team will win if he doesn’t believe it. And he’s experienced the game up close, at all levels. He has an artificial knee and screws holding his shoulder together, and a back that creaks -- all from football.
He knows football games are more often won by the better team. This year, Benish said, Clemson is that team.
He said it’s not like a year ago when adrenaline and exceeded expectations had the Tigers playing Alabama for the crown. This year, Clemson has the experience, maturity, calmness, the heart. The intangibles and skill and coaching and leadership, the combination to win, Benish said.
“This team will be going into this game expecting to win,” Benish said. “That loss a year ago has been stuck in their craw all year.”
But the game must be played. Young men must perform. For three hours, Benish will be young again, like Harvey and all the other fans. He will watch young men dare to be great.