Still in its bubble wrap, former Clemson head football coach Danny Ford is waiting for the right moment to read the words on the pages of a letter that may have set the course of his life.
"I probably will wait til after the season when Clemson's through playing and nothing will be on my mind about football and just go back and look at each name that's written down there and remember a story about them at practice when they were 18, 19, 20 years old," Ford said.
In 1978, a young man named Michael Brown wrote the letter to help the Tigers fight for their next leader. Brown was a lawyer and manager for the Tigers at the time and also served as Dabo Swinney's sport agent later on.
The letter helped pen the program's history, but Ford only saw it for the first time this past weekend.
"I know it's real," he said. "I know it made a lot of difference. It certainly didn't hurt me from getting the job and probably might of made me get the job. "
In his 1981 season as head coach, Ford led the tigers to their first national championship, but it wasn't time to deliver the letter.
"I heard through them that he was going to give it to me when I got in the hall of fame," Ford said.
That's happening for Ford in just a few weeks, but Brown won't be here to see it happen. He passed away from cancer in January, just after the Tigers clinched their second national title.
"He would have done what he said he was going to do I know," Ford said. "But you know if that was the way it was, pretty amazing that it happened that way."
Making good on his promise, Brown's two sisters framed and delivered the letter to Ford at a Tigers tailgate.
"They handed me that and... time stopped, an experience that I'll never forget," he said.
The 40 year-old rumor suddenly became truth. Ford saw firsthand that the team he took over back in 1978 had every bit of faith in their new leader of the pack.
"I'm anxious to read about who all signed it and then I'm going to find out who didn't and I'm gonna get a hold of them boys," Ford said, laughing.
But more importantly, the words remind him to pause for a minute because it's never too late to enjoy history in the making.
"You cherish all the things that have happened," Ford said. "Like the guys that played for me when I was an offensive line coach and before I got the head coaching job and what Mike Brown did and what his sisters have done."
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