As Shaedon Meadors’ star began to rise during his senior year of high school at Byrnes High in Duncan, S.C., the university 50 miles down the road finally came calling.
By then, it was too late for Clemson. He was already comfortable with the path carved out for him at Appalachian State.
Meadors, now a sophomore receiver with the Mountaineers (1-0), already had plenty of interest in putting on a show for his friends back home this Saturday at Clemson (1-0) — never mind his godfather, Tony Elliott, is the Tigers’ co-offensive coordinator.
“They came at me, they (showed interest) at the last second,” Meadors said of Clemson, continuing with a smile. “It’s a little – not personal – but I’ll be ready to play.”
Offensive lineman Parker Collins, who grew up a South Carolina fan, is looking forward to the chance to play in front of friends and family from back home in North Augusta, S.C.
“God, I love South Carolina,” he said. “Can’t wait to get back and play an in-state team.”
There’s plenty of personal interest – and a shortage of tickets among players – for this weekend’s matchup, with 18 Appalachian State players growing up in football-crazed South Carolina.
Justin Watts, the wide receivers coach and a native of Florence, S.C., who played for the Tigers from 1996 to 2000, gave his players an idea of what they’ll walk into at Memorial Stadium with 85,000 fans on Saturday.
He said he doesn’t expect the Mountaineers, fresh off last week’s 49-0 win against Howard, to be intimidated.
“It’s a unique place, just with the stadium and fans being on top you, but these guys went to Michigan last year, they’ve been to places that are similar to this,” Watts said. “I’ve told them my 2 cents about what they’re going to experience, but the bottom line is football is football. We’re going to kick off, and you’ve got to play.”
This will be Watts’ second trip to Death Valley to coach against his alma mater.
For his first visit in 2009 with Middle Tennessee State, Watts got the sentimental part of the trip over with the night before the game. When they got down to business Saturday, C.J. Spiller of Clemson returned the opening kickoff 96 yards, and Clemson topped Middle Tennessee State 37-14.
“So, good homecoming,” Watts said, laughing.
Scot Sloan, the Mountaineers’ secondary coach and recruiting coordinator, grew up 60 miles from campus and walked on as a defensive back from 1988 to 1991 for the Tigers.
Since 1995 Sloan has only returned once, to take a recruit on a visit during his time as a high school coach.
Despite that, he’s not concerned with getting caught up in the moment Saturday.
“Just worry about coaching football and not get caught up in all the orange, and the old memories,” he said.
Growing up a Gamecocks fan, Sloan switched his preference to the Tigers in middle school and chose to chase his dream of rubbing Howard’s Rock and playing for Coach Danny Ford instead of accepting a scholarship at a smaller program.
He still has a vivid memory of running down the hill for the first time at Memorial Stadium.
“Pretty nerve-wracking. I remember getting to the bottom and just quivering, my knees were shaking; it was a cool experience,” Sloan said. “It’s a pretty steep hill; you’ve got to pace yourself, you can’t attack it.”
After he wrapped up his playing days, Sloan hung around Clemson for four more seasons as a graduate assistant before leaving in 1996.
On Saturday, the Tigers – who beat Wofford 49-10 Saturday – will honor the 1995 team that went 8-4 and played in the Gator Bowl in Sloan’s final season on staff.
A few old friends reached out this week to invite him to take part in the celebration.
“Some guys have asked, ‘Are you going to come run down the hill with us? We’ll hang a left to our sideline, and you can hang a right,’” Sloan said. “I said, ‘That probably won’t fly real well.’”
The Winston-Salem Journal is a news partner of the Observer. For more Appalachian State coverage go to www.journalnow.com/sports/asu.