Larry Williams was a child of the Clemson-South Carolina football rivalry. Travis Haney happened upon it. But regardless of how the two journalists came to know the the historic series, both are plenty aware of the passion it engenders in the fans of the Palmetto State.
Williams, 36, and Haney, 30, have come out with a book "Classic Clashes of the Carolina-Clemson Football Rivalry: A State of Disunion," that delves deep into the rivalry, featuring interviews of former players that made the matchup what it is.
For Williams, senior writer at TigerIllustrated.com, and Haney, now a reporter at The Oklahoman in Oklahoma City, the 208-page book was a labor of love.
"I do think my history with following the rivalry has helped me with this book," Williams said. "I have a lot for passion the rivalry itself. If this book was on the Georgia Tech - Georgia rivalry, it would have been more like work. But this rivalry is part of me, part of the place I live."
Williams, an acclaimed journalist whose work at the Charleston Post and Courier from 2003 to 2008 helped him win the 2007 South Carolina Sportswriter of the Year award by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, joined TigerIllustrated.com in 2008, and became a popular source of information for diehard Clemson fans. It only made sense, as his five years at the Post and Courier were spent on the Clemson sports beat.
Ironically, Williams, who grew up in the Charleston and Columbia areas and graduated from USC in 1998, was raised a Gamecock fan. While his mother was a nursing student at the University of South Carolina, Williams could hear the roar of the crowd and actually see Williams-Brice stadium.
Williams makes it clear that while he grew up a Gamecock fan, a combination of professional obligation, dedication to maintaining his credibility and personal preference have since changed his view of the rivalry.
"Journalists don't have a license, or something that says 'This gives me a certificate to practice what I do,'" Williams said. "All you have is your credibility. The only way to have that is to step away from any kind of emotional attachments to what you're covering.
"I am really happy to be able to see it from both sides. I really like living in Clemson. I've lived here seven years. I've raised a family here, and I enjoy it. I'm not a Clemson fan, but not really a Gamecock fan either.
"I'm not a Clemson fan, but I like to see them do well because it's so much more fun to cover when they're winning."
But once upon a time.
On Nov. 19, 1983, his mother, using a student ticket and some charm, managed to get an 8-year-old Williams into his first Carolina - Clemson game.
"Mom finally took me to the Carolina-Clemson game," Williams recalled "She had a student ticket, but didn't have a ticket for me. I remember her walking on a hope or prayer that she could talk my way in.
"So, we go, and there's a lot of suspense when we get to the turnstile, and my mom sweet-talks the guy into letting me in. I remember jumping around in the concourse, celebrating. It was before the game, but we'd already won - we were in."
That 1983 game ended with a brief tussle between the two teams.
They'd come to blows again 21 years later. Williams, then at the Post and Courier, shared the press box at Death Valley with Travis Haney, who was then on the sports beat for the Augusta Chronicle.
"It was such a strange weekend, all the way around," Haney said. "I recall being in Tiger Town Tavern watching that Pistons-Pacers brawl and thinking how odd that was. And then, less than 24 hours later, I'm watching something similar between college athletes. To go from that moment on the field, to Spurrier's hiring the next week - I don't know that I've seen such a wide-swinging emotional week for one program. It was a low point for the schools, no doubt, but it was also fascinating."
It was Haney's first time covering the rivalry game.
Haney, an award-winning journalist in his own right, encountered the Palmetto State feud differently than his co-author and friend, Williams did.
Originally from Cleveland, Tenn., Haney grew up a Volunteers fan, graduating from the University of Tennessee in 2003, and cut his teeth on covering SEC athletics. He'd lived his whole life in Tennessee, Georgia or South Carolina before moving in August to Oklahoma to take on a new challenge, and most recently worked the South Carolina beat for the Post and Courier.
Haney is no stranger to channeling his passion for southern sports into the written word. He's written one book, "Gamecock Glory," which documents USC baseball's 2010 national championship run.
"I wrote my first book a year ago, about South Carolina winning the 2010 College World Series. We had a good amount of success from that, so we decided to proceed with a project about the Carolina-Clemson rivalry," Haney said.
"This is what came from it. I asked Larry to join me, since he is such a terrific resource on the rivalry. More importantly, he's a great friend. I had written a book on my own, but it's a unique distinction to be able to write a book with a good friend. Larry helped me get my job with The Post and Courier, further bringing me into the fold of this rivalry."
The new book includes forewords from two legendary quarterbacks from USC and Clemson — Tommy Suggs and Charlie Whitehurst — and breaks down some of the most memorable moments from the series, which began in 1896.
The book, which features interviews from the likes of Keith Jennings, Jeff Grantz, Rodney Williams and many others, digs into the very roots of the series. Williams said one of the most interest aspects of his research discovering the animosity that was present between the two schools from the very beginning of the rivalry.
The book discusses the schools' histories, which are inextricable linked by politics, prejudice and culture. Clemson University's very existence is owed to the rift between the more agrarian Upstate and the perceived elitism of the University of South Carolina and its Lowcountry and Midland benefactors.
"That was the coolest thing to me, that while I would assume that while most rivalries are cultivated over time, this one was white hot from the beginning," Williams said.
"Classic Clashes of the Carolina-Clemson Football Rivalry: A State of Disunion" can be found at the book's web site, and at most chain bookstores across the state.