MIAMI SHORES, Fla. — In December 2008, West Virginia had just beaten North Carolina to win the Meineke Car Care Bowl. John and Debra Stanchek were celebrating the victory, which was also their son Ryan's final football game with the Mountaineers.
But amid the revelry, the Stancheks had a warning heeded by Don Barclay Sr., the father and namesake of WVU's All-Big East offensive left tackle.
"It goes by so fast," they told him. "Make sure you take advantage."
Don and his wife Dana check in today at the Mountaineers' team hotel, the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach. Wednesday night No. 23 WVU (9-3) plays No. 14 Clemson (10-3) in the Orange Bowl (ESPN).
It will be the fifth bowl game they've traveled to with their son on the roster. It will also be the last.
"I remember Ryan's parents saying that and I remember thinking, 'Man, I'm never missing anything,' " Don said. "We've always had a ritual where we go down in the stadium an hour before the game and we watch him warm up and all that and there's not been one time I didn't go down there and say, 'Thank God.'
"I can't believe we've been able to do this and that he's been able to do this for as long. It's been a blessing. But at the same time, this is kind of sad."
The Barclays have been coming to games for years and years.
Dana's sister is married to Al Pisula, a WVU defensive lineman from 1976-79 who made 116 tackles in his career and recovered four fumbles in 1978. He, too, arrives for the bowl today.
"I can't tell you how much I love West Virginia," said Pisula, who's from Scottdale, Pa. The thought of seeing his nephew, Don Jr., playing for nearby Pitt gave him nightmares.
"I probably love West Virginia more than he does. It's been everything for me. So this is going to be sad. I've been doing this since I got done in 1980 and we've been tailgating there for I don't know how many years now. But when he got down there, we took it to a whole other level.
"We got an RV. We have 50 or 60 people to every game. I think we're all going to be sad when it's done."
Though Don Jr. didn't play as a freshman in 2007, instead taking his redshirt season, he was in uniform for all the games and made all the road trips, including the Fiesta Bowl. All the while, his family was there, too.
"You're thinking, 'Man, we're going to do this every year,' " Don Sr. said. "Going through all the hoopla and the buildup and the atmosphere was just incredible. It's unlike all the other bowls."
He would know. The Barclays have been to the Car Care, Gator and Champs Sports bowls. Through the years, he said they've missed "two, maybe three" games and all of them were on the road.
The home games are easy. The Barclays live outside Pittsburgh, in Cranberry Township, Pa. They could be much farther away and they would still come to watch Don Jr. and to do what they love to do.
"It's been a lot of fun," said Don's younger brother, Beau. "I can remember when we were little kids, me and Donny would always go to a couple games every year with my uncle.