Rabon walks(on) tall
Junior from Aiken leads class of new Tigers from last weeks tryouts.
by RYAN LAUNIUS
This article originally appeared in The Tiger on August 28, 2009 | PRINT

Born and raised in Aiken, George Rabon has been a Clemson Tiger fan for the entirety of his life. With a father who was attending Clemson University during the 1981 national championship, George was brainwashed to bleed orange from very early on. But even with his lifelong Clemson allegiance, George never really found himself dreaming about running down the hill in uniform on game day.

This was not due to a lack of imagination or a disinterest in the subject. George’s exclusion of the Clemson football fantasy was in large part due to his sense of reality. Having never even played a snap of varsity football at any level, George was not expecting college recruiters to be calling when it came time to graduate from high school.

Despite his inexperience in the realms of varsity football, George was still an accomplished athlete. He managed to receive a varsity letter for baseball in his eighth grade year at Aiken Christian School. During his time at South Aiken High School, George received varsity letters in basketball, track and field, swimming and cross-country. He also played kicker/wide receiver for an undefeated JV football team; the first undefeated football season to ever grace South Aiken.

So when George Rabon first noticed an e-mail from Dabo Swinney this past week offering an open tryout to the students of Clemson University, he felt conflicted. The prospect of playing football enticed the senior accounting major, but his lack of experience placed a daunting task in front of him. After all, George was years removed from the small amount of organized football he had played in his life. Having only one day to come to a resolution, George turned to prayer and asked God for a guiding sign.

An answer came almost immediately. Within minutes after George finished his prayer and looked up at the computer screen, he received an e-mail from his father. The message contained a link to a Web site talking about the football tryouts coupled with a single inspiring phrase: “It’s never too late.”

The next day, George showed up to the football tryouts along with 38 other students to compete for the 10 open positions on the roster. While many of those 38 students had been working all summer in the weight room to reach peak physical condition for the tryouts, George’s recent discovery of the tryouts did not reserve him the option of training.

Fortunately, George had been training for triathlons throughout the summer. Managing to place tenth in his age group at a June triathlon in Charleston, George was already in proper physical condition for a tryout.

The entire group started off with the usual: wind sprints, high kicks, etc. After warming up and giving the coaching staff a good sense of their speed, the students split up into their respective groups by position for skills testing.

George went with the wide receivers and proceeded to show off his route-running and ball handling abilities.

As the tallest of the eight potential wideouts, George’s medium frame and able hands impressed the coaching staff enough to hold a few conversations with him.

Naturally, George was elated when he received the call Friday night informing him of his spot on Clemson University’s football roster. Like most Clemson fans, George has watched the Tigers run down the hill in Death Valley during the most exciting 25 seconds in college football from the stands countless times at home games. Now he can be a part of it.

Even with the glamour of living out the fantasy of almost every male Clemson fan, the road ahead will not be an easy one for George. Practicing with a team that has already been together through the summer will require the walk on to play catch up both on and off the field. Working out, practicing and studying plays will quickly become George’s life over the ensuing months.

As a walk on, George will not be expected to line up across from Ras-I Dowling of UVA or take a hit from Deunta Williams of UNC on the first day.

However, this does not lift the burden of catching up and getting into proper physical form that awaits him this fall. Although he will not be receiving financial support for school, George is expected to become a contributing member of the football team.

Whether he will see playing time on Saturdays will depend on how quickly George learns the plays and how well he executes them in practice.

Wanting Clemson to prosper, George is trying to find the place he can best contribute towards the team’s success. Whether that place is on the field or the bench is yet to be seen, but do not immediately write off George or any of the other nine recent acquisitions just because they are walk-ons.

If George or any of the other non-scholarship athletes play well, they could end up with scholarships for future seasons. This would be following in the footsteps of players like Terrance Ashe, Rob Bodine, Tony Elliot, Tommy Sharpe, Nelson Faerber, Ed Glenn, Mitch Belton, Thomas Hunter and Jessie Picken, just to name a few.

Looking towards the future, George hopes to graduate with his B.S. in accounting this May and return to play more football as a graduate student if the option is open.

The coaching staff is now training George to be a tight end. With our current two tight end set, George may get to see some action on the field this season.

While some students may become arrogant upon receiving an invitation to join the football team, George’s jump from Clemson accounting major to Division I-A football player has not affected his faith or humility.

When asked about all of his hard work culminating in the form of a roster spot, George stated, “To God be the glory, because it’s nothing I did. It is only by His Grace.”

George continues to place praise on the coaches for selecting him while hoping that he does not disappoint.

Asked what he is most looking forward to about the football season, George simply replied,

“I am looking forward to being part of something greater than myself; being on a team again where we all work hard toward achieving one goal.”

And after a long pause, George finally responds, “I am excited and a little worried about running down the hill rubbing Howard’s Rock and being a part of the most exciting 25 seconds of college football.”

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