While watching the All-American Bowl yesterday, I was struck by a stark contrast, an observation.
As a novice, actually an idiot, in all things recruiting, I get highly offended when any prospect chooses anyplace place other than Clemson. How can they not love this place? It’s befuddling.
Actually, its an attempt at humor, mimicking my initial, childish, gut reaction but thankfully maturity and reason take over and I graciously “let” them go, wherever.
Travis Etienne, is and will always be, one of the greatest young men to ever wear the Paw. He is the all time leading rusher in ACC history. He crushed many Clemson records along his way to becoming a first round NFL draft pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Unfortunately, he suffered a season ending injury but will make his impact in the 2022 season, that’s for sure.
However, yesterday was not about Travis Etienne but younger brother Trevor. He was scheduled to make his choice of destinations known during the All-American Bowl. It was between Clemson, Florida and LSU.
Unbelievably, he chose a school not named Clemson. Florida would be the place where he would fulfill his football destiny. It was disappointing but so much about recruiting, especially for this novice, can seem disappointing but actually it’s really not. When it’s all about them, how can it be?
Then, it didn’t take long for me to witness that starkness of the comparison I mentioned above. Clemson commit Cade Klubnik was literally the star of the show. He chose Clemson back in the spring and I suspect both he and Trevor made the correct choice, for themselves.
It’s one of the miracles of life and football, choosing the right place. Not every miracle has a happy ending but thanks to the proliferation of the transfer portal, there can now be many miracles, in an “all’s well that ends well” world. It’s the realities of our time, even as a novice, I get it.
I admire the younger Etienne for his choice. Not so much the destination but the process. I suspect there were many factors involved in making his final choice. One has to be, Travis, blazed his own orange trail and now, Trevor will blaze his slightly different shade of orange trail. Choice, even a personally disappointing one, is a good thing. In my reasonable personality, I wish him only the absolute best. After all, he is a member of our extended Clemson family.
Klubnik made his choice and it too, was the right choice. Initially, Clemson had set their sights on another class of 2022 QB, Ty Simpson. When that young man chose to go elsewhere, the Tigers staff shifted priorities and were all-in on Klubnik.
More importantly, Klubnik was all-in on Clemson and both should be happy with their respective choices. This young Texan has never wavered, never publicly doubted his chosen path. In spite of an unusual season, he remained steadfast in his commitment as Clemson did to him.
As a self proclaimed recruiting idiot, even I understand the process and it’s imperfections in this system. Sure, certain possibly toxic elements are being allowed to taint the process but such is life. Here lies the subtle genius of Dabo Swinney’s culture, his process.
By pure instinct and thoughtful research, Swinney does not gravitate towards, but rather away from recruits that just don’t “get” Clemson. It’s like destiny, in most cases. While some will decide on another path, most stay Tigers and most will succeed on the highest levels of college football.
Yesterday, watching the All-American Bowl, I admit, I was a little moved. To see every single young man playing a game that, is most likely to be his destiny, all seemed right. The common denominators of each of these young men are obvious. Choice, commitment, dedication, hard work and belief. Belief in themselves and in their choice.
While I still believe, in my childish irrationality, everyone should chose Clemson I can see there is no wrong choice. The only wrong choice for them, is to allow someone or something else to make it for them.
It’s one of the most difficult, yet wondrous aspects of becoming a man, making a choice. As an observer with zero influence or say in the matter, I’m surprisingly delighted in both the process and the results. Now, with the recruiting tales of Cade Klubnik and Trevor Etienne having been written, it’s now time to celebrate the beautiful perfection found in this age old wisdom of “blooming wherever you’re planted.”
Good Luck to Klubnik, Etienne, and to all of these young men, yes, even those that didn’t choose Clemson. You made the right choice because it’s yours. It’s my hope and the hope of true football fans everywhere that you make the best of it!