Stan Rome can’t wait to get to Clemson on Saturday to visit a place he hasn’t seen in a long time.
He’s craving a cheeseburger from Mac’s Drive In on Pendleton Road.
“That’s one of my favorite places,” said Rome, a two-sport legend from Valdosta who played football and basketball at Clemson in the 1970s. “They’re greasy, but they’re awesome.”
Oh, returning to Memorial Stadium — aka “Death Valley” — for the first time in many years will be pretty awesome, too. But he’ll do it in different colors this time. Rome said he and his wife, LaVerne, will don the red and black of Georgia when they attend Saturday night’s game between the No. 5 Bulldogs and No. 8 Tigers.
“Family comes before alma mater, of course,” said the elder Rome, whose oldest son, Jay, plays tight end for the Bulldogs. “I had some fond memories and great days at Clemson. But Jay’s going to Georgia, and they’ve been really good to him. I’m excited about seeing him play, and hopefully he can make a play or two.”
Jay Rome, a 6-foot-6, 254-pound sophomore, is expected to play a significant role for the Bulldogs in their first trip to Clemson since 2003. He’s behind senior Arthur Lynch on the depth chart, but both are expected to play extensively.
How much Rome plays may depend upon how well he has recovered from a high-ankle sprain he suffered early in preseason camp.
“I was there for the first day of full pads the day he sprained it,” Stan Rome said. “Me and my youngest son (Justin, 11) drove up that morning and saw it happen. It was tough to watch.”
Jay Rome returned to practice last week and pronounced himself ready to go.
“It was a pretty good setback,” said Rome, who had 11 catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns as a redshirt freshman last season. “Missing all the days was kind of hard on me, especially coming right on the front part of camp. I was coming in trying to compete for a starting spot, so it was kind of frustrating. But me and (trainer) Ron Courson worked really hard on it in the mornings and afternoons and as much as possible, and they got me back on the field as quick as possible.”
As one might expect, Rome wouldn’t miss this game for the world. But, he insists, that’s not because his dad played there.
“It’s really not as big a deal as people make it,” he said. “All the motivation for me is coming from the fact that I don’t want to lose. As a competitor in any sport, losing is the worst feeling ever. I treat every game just as serious as the next. So it’s a very serious game for me, but not because of this or that, just because it’s a game and we want to win all of them.”
Georgia coach Mark Richt likes hearing that, but he doesn’t necessarily believe it.
“I know it means something more to that family than just any other game that Jay’s played in, being that Stan played at Clemson and had a very good career there,” Richt said. “I know he’s going to want to, in some way, shape and form, honor his father by playing well.”
While Rome might not admit there’s anything special about Saturday’s game, his father will.
“It’s still meaningful to me because I never played Georgia in Death Valley, and it’s Jay’s first opportunity to play there,” Stan said. “It’d be nice if he could score a touchdown against Clemson and they win.”
The Clemson football experience wasn’t great for Stan Rome. While he went there to play both sports, he dropped football after one season. He became disillusioned with the game after the Tigers were 2-9 in 1975. Included in that season was a 35-7 loss at Georgia in which Stan scored the only touchdown on a long bomb.
“That kind of soured my desire to play football at Clemson,” Stan said. “I hadn’t lost nine football games my whole life.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.