I was amazed to learn that Dabo Swinney still has open tryouts each spring for those that think they have have what it takes to play Power-5 football.
In the spring of 2015, he found gold not on the field in a tryout, but at of all places, the grocery store.
Greg Huegel entered Clemson in the fall of 2014, like all of the other 9,300 freshmen, but there was something festering in the place that dreams dwell. You see, Heugel had dreams of being a kicker at Clemson.
While some might say an improbable dream, but when someone believes in themselves, anything is possible. If you don’t believe it, just ask Swinney, himself.
Huegel had originally accepted a walk-on offer at Auburn, but after a coaching change, he decided to join his sister and enroll at Clemson.
At Blythewood High School, Huegel was known as Ice Cold for handling himself in pressure situations. However, now he’d be known forever as Clemosn’s grocery store kicker.
Swinney even joked about him trying out in a Bi Lo parking lot. However, inside Swinney, there was a deep abiding respect for any walk-on, and it wasn’t any different with Huegel.
In the 2015 season, Huegel became the first walk-on to earn All-American honors at Clemson. His stats were impressive, with the kicker going 27-32 FG attempts. The 27 made field goals being tops in the nation.
His 138 points set Clemson single season records for overall scoring and kick scoring, breaking C.J. Spiller’s overall scoring mark of 128 set in 2009 and Chandler Cantanzaro’s kick scoring record of 118 set in 2011. At one point he hit 16 straight field goals.
Unbelievably, he earned 2nd team All-American honors from Sports Illustrated, first team freshman All-American honors by USA Today, and second team All-ACC.
In 2016 he was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist, hitting on 14-19 FGA. He set a Clemson single season record with 71 PATs and finished with 113 points, 5th best in school history.
Huegel had 37 touchbacks, which after struggling with kickoffs his first season, was a welcomed improvement. He was named second team All ACC by the coaches and media. Despite his meager, unorthodox beginning, Huegel was now among the best kickers in college football.
He would go on to became a two time national champion. Huegel left Clemson in 2019, the absolute model of consistency and with many awards and honors.
That had to have been hard to imagine for everyone except Huegel. Along with the two national championships, he had four ACC Titles, four College Football Playoff appearances, wins in the Orange, Fiesta, and Cotton Bowls, and a Clemson degree. Not bad for a grocery store kicker.
Huegel’s story isn’t the norm but when you believe in yourself and you earn the belief of those around you, there is nothing you can’t accomplish. I’m sure, this time of year Swinney makes frequent recruiting trips to find his next unlikely superstar, in his favorite picking grounds, the grocery store.
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