There was no way to know what feeling to expect from my first meeting with David Saville. I’d heard about him, seen some of the extensive media coverage on him and the remarkable path he’d followed to Clemson University stardom. But you have to see these kinds of things for yourself before you can honestly understand or relate to them.
The young man has endeared himself to millions of people, sports fans or not, by way of his undeniable spirit and charisma. Saville lives with Down Syndrome, and will likely always require some kind of assistance to manage the daily challenges of life. Yet that is not the first thing you think of when you see him and see how he interacts with people.
You see a young man bursting with energy and happiness, undaunted by the little things that so often cast a cloud over our days. Simply put, David Saville doesn’t have bad days.
This is the feeling you take away from being around him, even for a moment. And it is without a doubt the primary sensation and memory I’ll always associate with him, having met and spent some time around him.
This particular assignment called for a tribute to David, viewed through the lens of his growth via the Boy Scouts of America. That’s where his story, I think, starts to form in the way Clemson fans might recognize.
Saville’s family took a chance on putting him into Boy Scouts at 10 years of age. Clearly, other young boys would recognize David had a disability of some kind. How would they react?
“My biggest fear was that no one would want to share a tent with him at camp,” said David’s father, Bob. Within weeks, even days, his fear was proven unfounded. With the help of loving scout masters and family friends, David fit right in with the other scouts, learning every new skill right along with the rest of the boys his age.
When it came time for the first camping trip, “there was a line of at least six scouts” wanting to share a tent with David, recalls his father. From there on, it was nothing but growth and fond memories. David went on to become an Eagle scout, and with the skills he’d mastered through that experience, was able to serve as a football equipment manager at Norcross High School.
When he was accepted to the Clemson Life Program for students with special needs, it was only a matter of time before head football coach Dabo Swinney noticed him, and accepted him as part of the Clemson football family.
David took on the challenge of equipment manager for the Tigers’ football team, and almost immediately became a favorite amongst the players, and coach Swinney.
“He has just brought so much joy to my life,” said Swinney. “One of the best parts of my day, every day, is when I come out to practice and get my hug from big David. He brings great perspective to our team, hopefully teaching these guys (the players) to appreciate their health and what they have.”
It is not often an assignment turns into such a gift. Truthfully, I can say this assignment to tell David’s story was a blessing and a memory that I will cherish for years to come.
Click here to view David’s story, produced for the Boy Scouts of America Atlanta area council. Special thanks to Clemson University, and to Chris Duzan with Raycom Sports, for helping bring this story to fruition.