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Walking the Tiger Walk

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson interim head coach Dabo Swinney, looking all-business in a tan suit with a black folder tucked under his arm, pumped his fist in the air as he made his way through a rejuvenated fan base Saturday morning, leading the Tigers for the first time.

His young sons stayed close behind as they made their way through the reaching, screaming, smothering crowd, wide-eyed and seemingly overwhelmed by the lines of fans on both sides of them.

"Let's get 'em Dabo!" somebody yelled.

It was a dizzying, emotion-filled trek from the buses to the west end zone entrance, and the Tigers practically floated into the stadium, ushered by a wave of support from their Orange-clad fans. The turmoil that surrounded the program earlier this week seemed to have washed away, even if only for a few minutes.

I didn't just watch the Tiger Walk this morning, I walked it.

"I love it!" running back C.J. Spiller yelled over the deafening roar of the fans. "This is what it's all about!"

Fans were reaching their arms out for high-fives, and held homemade signs that read things like "Yabba Dabbo Do!" and "ALL IN!"

From the start of Lot 5 to the stadium, the Clemson players and their coaches walked through a path made of fans hungry for change.

Many of them called out to the players by their first names, no jersey numbers needed to identify them.

These players, they literally had a swagger, and looked sharp in their suits and ties. Quarterback Cullen Harper, who came under fire for his comments earlier this week about former coach Tommy Bowden, was all smiles. Even James Davis, who was in tears on Monday, couldn't help but smile as the fans called out to him and cameras flashed.

A week ago, the frustration had reached a boiling point. This morning, it was the anticipation. As early as four hours before kickoff, Lot 5 began to fill with boosters, many whom admitted they probably wouldn't have been here today had the coaching change not been made. After all, they were paying $2,100 a year to park there to watch a 3-3 team. And that doesn't include their season tickets.

Lee Horton, a junior in chemical engineering from Kingstree, S.C., said his cell phone buzzed while he was in class on Monday with a few text messages as the news about Bowden quickly spread through campus. He and his father, Mike, said they would have fired Bowden about six years ago, and a change was long overdue.

"It's nice to see some excitement," Horton said. "It's nice to see Swinney have some courage, get rid of [Rob] Spence, and get things going again. It's been dead around here too long."