Why I'm Proud to be a Clemson Tiger

Thursday, January 12, 2017 - 10:00am
Paige Duke

Why I'm Proud to be a Clemson Tiger

I come from a long line of Clemson Tigers. My fiancé, Ty Murray, comes from a long line of cowboys and says he doesn’t ever remember choosing to be a cowboy; that it was just what he always wanted to be. Well, I don’t ever remember choosing to be a Clemson fan. It’s like I was just born a Tiger and there was never a choice of rooting for another team. When the time came to begin applying to colleges, I only needed to send off one application; I knew I wanted to go to Clemson!

My great grandfather, Halcott Junious Beckham Jr., graduated from Clemson University in 1932. His military sword still hangs in my Aunt Ann’s house.

My Dad graduated from Clemson in 1984 with a degree in mechanical engineering, this was before he began flying the F-16’s as a fighter pilot. He attended the 1981 National Championship game in Miami when Clemson beat the Cornhuskers for their first ever National title.

My Aunt Ann also graduated from Clemson. Her son is a Clemson graduate and her daughters are currently both students at Clemson.

I attended Clemson from 2005-2009 graduating Magna Cum Laude from the Calhoun Honors College with a degree in Animal Science and a concentration in Equine Business.

I found this quote in the foreword of the 1932 TAPS yearbook when my great grandfather graduated. “If you find a realism and diversity that makes your ageing heart glad that you spent four glorious years at Clemson, we shall feel that our efforts have been amply rewarded.”

Glad doesn’t even begin to describe the overwhelming emotions I felt as Clemson cinched their second National Title in a rematch against the college football powerhouse, Alabama this past Monday. This was the first time tears have filled my eyes at the outcome of a football game. I was reminded of the four glorious years I spent at Clemson, and how I wouldn’t be living my dreams today if I had attended any other school. I have never felt the sort of connection I feel while watching Clemson football. I never missed a home football game in Death Valley (our stadium) rooting for the Tigers along with my friends. My time at Clemson was some of the best years of my life!

In 2008, my senior year, our head coach, Tommy Bowden, was released just six games into the season, and William “Dabo” Swinney was named interim head coach. The National Championship title is even more special knowing I was there when Dabo started!

Besides attending football games, I was passionate about being a stand out student. I loved learning, and I loved my field of study. Clemson began as Clemson Agricultural school in 1893 and was initially an all white, all male military school. It became Clemson University in 1964.

I decided to pursue a degree in animal science. I had always loved animals and when I was younger I wanted to become a veterinarian. However, once I started college I knew I did not want to continue that career path, but I still wanted to be involved in the animal industry. This lead me to choose a concentration in equine business.

Growing up, horses were my passion. Black Beauty was my favorite movie, and my favorite child-time memory was showing horses in the hunter under saddle classes in local competitions. I was given my first horse, Banjo, when I was 12-years-old. For my degree, I had to take all the basic courses any bachelor’s of science degree requires, but the classes specific to my concentration were my favorite. Labs were held at one of the five barns on Clemson University. There was a poultry, swine, equine, beef, and dairy cattle barn. I was immersed into the agriculture lifestyle that I had dreamed about as a child.

I am from a small town called Lancaster, South Carolina, but I did not grow up on a farm or ranch, however I still fantasized about one-day living that kind of lifestyle. My elective courses allowed me to spend time at the horse barns for classes like horsemanship, reproduction techniques, equine evaluation, and other sorts of hands-on lab work!

I was also a part of the Block and Bridle Club, the Rodeo Club, and showed hogs as part of the Swine Show Team. Our clubs would load up the horses and take a 30-minute drives up into the foothills for a weekend of camping and trail riding. During this time, I adopted a horse off of the racetrack and boarded him at a barn that was exclusively for Block and Bridle members. We took turns taking care of each other’s horses. I made such wonderful memories during this time!

After graduation, I worked part time as a veterinary technician and did some work with modeling for an agency. I ended up booking the job as NASCAR’s Miss Sprint Cup and had to give away the horse I had adopted while I was a student at Clemson. I loved my job with NASCAR and realized a new dream of mine as a sideline reporter and television host. I was disconnected from the horse industry during this time of my life, but I still held on to that love for horses.

While I was working as the track reporter for Texas Motor Speedway, a NASCAR friend of mine sent me a job posting for RIDE TV as a show host. Oh man, did this seem like the dream job to me! I applied for the job but didn’t think much of it until they contacted me and asked when I’d be in Texas again for a meeting. I told them I would be working the Indy car race there in the summer and the CEO and President of RIDE TV agreed to come meet with me. We had a wonderful breakfast meeting and they hired me on the spot! In October of 2014, I packed up and moved to Texas. It felt like all the roads and detours I had taken in my life had finally made sense! I was going to be able to combine my love for horses, my degree, and my passion for television in a new career!

The last two years have been amazing! I have enjoyed every second of working with RIDE TV from hosting my cooking show, Southern Fried Skinnyfied, to reporting at various equine events across the country! I met my fiancé, Ty, in 2014 while working at the National Finals Rodeo for RIDE TV. I now live on a ranch with horses, cows, chickens, donkeys and an amazing ranch manager, his wife, and a great set of soon to be in-laws that live across the ranch.

I didn’t know what life would have in store for me while I was a young lady at Clemson University. All I know is that I have followed my heart every step of the way from choosing to be a Tiger to chasing down my dreams. Coach Dabo’s slogan of, “All In,” certainly has been the way I’ve tried to live my life!

Here’s to the Clemson family, fans, and a year of holding the College Football National Champions title!

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