No different from the last time the Irish came to town 38 years ago.
Back then, Steve Fuller donned No. 4, nearly leading an upset in what was the biggest game in Memorial Stadium history at the time. Fuller, a two-time ACC Player of the Year and eventual first-round NFL pick, ended his career as one of the best players to ever play at Clemson and had his jersey retired in 1979.
His name and number are featured prominently in the Clemson Ring of Honor, too, where anybody who walks into the stadium can see and remember his impact on the program.
Deshaun Watson knew a little about Fuller while Clemson was recruiting him. What he knew for sure? His own favorite No. 4 would be unavailable with the Tigers. And Watson never once asked whether there was any possibility it could be unretired.
Coach Dabo Swinney did that all on his own. During a golf tournament the two were in, Swinney approached Fuller about the idea. “The first time, I didn’t think much of it because I didn’t know anything about Deshaun,” Fuller recalled in a recent interview.
Swinney had already planted the seed, and felt confident enough about Watson being able to wear No. 4 that he told his incoming quarterback.
“He said, ‘How do you want to wear No. 4?” Watson recalled. “I said, ‘I can’t I thought it was retired.’ And he’s said he talked to Steve and they went to dinner and he said it would be a great idea so I was excited for it and pretty honored that he was going to let me wear his number.”
Watson called Fuller, who happened to be at a restaurant with his wife and daughter.
“I talked to him on the phone a couple times, and I felt really good about it not because he’s a great player, but because he’s such a good kid,” Fuller said. “You want to make sure when you do something like that, that you’re doing it with a kid you have no worries about from a character standpoint or a trust standpoint and he was the perfect guy.”
Watson thanked him, and recalls what Fuller told him: “He said, ‘Wear it proudly. It’s your number now, start a new tradition.’”
The No. 4 made its return to the field last year, when Watson was a true freshman. The jersey featured a small patch in the shape of a football to honor Fuller. In the offseason, Clemson redesigned the patch to make it bigger and more prominently displayed.
Fuller, who now works and coaches in Hilton Head, South Carolina, is planning on being in Memorial Stadium on Saturday, sitting in the seats his family has had for 40 years. Though they are forever connected, Fuller has yet to meet Watson in person. “I’m sure it will happen sooner rather than later,” Fuller said.
Many of Fuller’s former teammates will be at the game as well, watching No. 4 try to take down the Irish once again.
“Let me ask you this: Can you retire one number twice?” said former offensive lineman Jeff Bostic, who blocked for Fuller. “Because I’m telling you this kid is pretty good.”