DALLAS (WCSC) - On Thursday, the Clemson Tigers took time out of their busy schedule, as they prepare for the Cotton Bowl, to visit patients at the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas.
The entire team walked into the hospital cafeteria to the sound of Tiger Rag and high-fived children who were lined up.
After a brief presentation and introductions, there was dancing, hula-hooping and the big favorite was the Pie Face Game.
"This is an awesome time,” Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. “I think it’s important to give back, and I’m grateful to Coach Swinney and everyone who sets these up has a good mind to allow us to go to these places. It’s cool to give back to this community and cheer the kids up a little bit.”
One of those kids was 8-year-old Layton Horner, who will also serve as the team’s honorary team captain on Saturday.
Horner was adopted after being born in Bulgaria with a limb difference.
“Layton is a firecracker," said his mom Raina Horner. “He’s a bundle of energy. We’ve always called him our Bulgarian whirlwind.”
At times it was hard to keep up with Layton as he went from game to game and took pictures with several members of the team.
“He’s a big ball of energy,” Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrel said about Horner. “His attitude towards life, I’ve been very inspired by it.”
The visit only lasted about an hour but it was a time for the team to loosen up and take a break from media sessions and practices.
“I loved it," Ferrell added. “From the ‘pie-ing' to the touchdown dances to the hula hooping, it’s been great just to come in here and give back to the kids. It’s been a great experience.”
Coach Dabo Swinney also talked about how special the visit was because of his family connection to children’s hospitals.
Swinney said his mom spent about ten years in the Crippled Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama because she had polio and severe scoliosis.
He also wanted to be a pediatrician in his early life, ended up getting his MBA and planned to run a hospital.
“This is what I wanted to do," Swinney said as he looked at the hospital staff.
“But God’s plan was for me to run a different kind of hospital,” he said as he gestured towards his team. “I’m still getting to deal with a bunch of young people so this is a real privilege and personal for me because I know the great work. And as a father of three boys, man we love our children and to know they’re in good hands in a place like this is special.”
Layton Horton will be on the field on Saturday for the coin toss and his mom said they are now a Clemson Tiger family.
A $10,000 check was also presented by General Manager of Goodyear North American Todd Macsuga to the hospital’s president Doug Walker.