Mount Dora resident Nancy Godwin Volland is such a die-hard Clemson University fan that she’s willing to camp out on top of a 45-foot-tall ESPN billboard for up to 12 days, cheering on her alma mater during the College Football Playoff.
The 59-year-old pharmaceutical sales specialist is one of four people — each representing one of the playoff finalists — who climbed the billboard’s platform Thursday in downtown San Jose, Calif., to compete for prizes and bragging rights as the last fan standing at the national championship game Jan. 7 at nearby Levi’s Stadium.
Volland, who graduated from the South Carolina university in 1981, is keeping up her game-day rituals of painting her nails orange, wearing her favorite Tigers jersey and only consuming orange foods — such as candy corn and Cheez-It crackers.
“I do some crazy things for my team,” she said, “but this is probably the craziest thing I’ve done to support my school and my team.”
During the contest, Volland and the three other fans — representing Alabama, Notre Dame and Oklahoma — are provided a tent, camping chair, one-inch foam pad and a sleeping bag. Meals are delivered and time is carved out for bathroom and shower breaks.
But the temperatures, which are predicted to hover around the upper 30s at night over the next several days, may prove to be the most challenging part of the experience.
“For me, being from Central Florida, I’m worried about being cold,” Volland said. “I’m the kind of girl that loves to be outside but I like to sleep in a cabin.”
When it came time for her two daughters to attend a university, Volland said she encouraged them to pick schools that have a major college football team.
Her 25-year-old daughter Elise Bjerken graduated from Auburn University while daughter Lindsay Bjerken, 23, followed in Volland’s academic and football fanatic footsteps by attending Clemson.
“Growing up, we went to football games all the time at Clemson so when it came time to apply for schools, there was no other option for me,” said Lindsay Bjerken, who graduated in 2017 and works as a business technology analyst in Washington D.C. “Clemson was home to me the way it was home to her for so many years.”
Volland, who was born in Kissimmee but moved to Charleston, S.C., as a child, was chosen based on fan videos she and her husband, Woody, submitted to the network.
The couple moved to Mount Dora 15 years ago when they got married and Nancy said she only had one request before they settled in Lake County.
“I needed to go to a minimum of three Clemson home games a year,” she said with a laugh. “We go a little more than I think we planned but that was our prenuptial agreement.”
Volland’s billboard experience could be as short as two days if the Tigers lose to the Fighting Irish. Under the rules, a loss would mean she would go home and watch the remaining teams battle it out for the national title from the comfort of her living room.
But she’d rather suffer the minor aches from an unconventional camp out than descend from the billboard in defeat.
“We expect Clemson can beat Notre Dame,” Volland said, “so I’m here for the long haul.”
No. 1 Alabama plays No. 4 Oklahoma at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Orange Bowl in Miami.
To view a livestream of the billboard challenge, log in to a cable provider and watch on the ESPN website or through the app.
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