Choosing Clemson, What Exactly Makes Recruits Want to Come to These Hills?

Now that the 2022 NFL Draft is over, our attention is turned towards the future and that includes securing the 2023 recruiting class.

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m no recruiting guru but I know one. He assures me, he doesn’t need to read tea leaves, tarot cards nor crystal balls, he does what any professional does, he builds relationships. That’s the key, as I see it, to this entire recruiting process.

Dabo Swinney and his staff have built quite the powerhouse through ‘positive’ recruiting. Accentuating the differences in the Clemson recruiting pitch and the other programs vying for these young men’s commitment has always interested me.

I’ve written before, Clemson isn’t easy, it’s hard, but anything worth having is worth the effort. Let me explain my ‘hard’ comment. The things most love about Clemson. It’s small community feel, a rural, rather than a big city vibe and understandably, that’s not for everyone. Some young men crave the bustling activities, the bright lights of the city. The only bright lights in Clemson are those that shine from a higher place. Being on a national stage.

Even our dear old Clemson isn’t for every young man, not even for most young men but most young men aren’t for Clemson either. It’s a dual vetting process, player to program, program to player, that weighs heavily in the decision of any recruit and their family.

While talent certainly impresses the eyes of all, a certain type of character impresses one in a far deeper place. Yes, Clemson’s program is an acquired taste, a personal choice. I’ve long wondered what a 17-18 year old recruit really thinks about Clemson University.

I’ve also wondered what it’s like to visit a place that is somewhat different than most. Where the three F’s, faith, family, and football are more than cliche. Where there is a living culture that embraces those who visit and letting them know, it’s all theirs for the taking.

Where there is a constant sense of greatness that prevails through the halls of this place. It fuels a young man that chooses it. A safe, supportive place to foster his dreams. A well conceived program designed to build not only better athletes but better men for their life after football. Not only is the place unique, so is the process and so are the people.

Swinney is very deliberate, thoughtful and purposeful in his extension of an offer to any recruit. The number of scholarships Clemson offers pales in comparison to most. I believe David Shaw of Stanford might be as thrifty as Swinney but I finally understand, it’s by design. While it’s stood the test of time, like any living thing it evolves when necessary but in small measures.

I’d like to believe that every recruit wants to come to Clemson but that’s unrealistic. I’d also like to believe that with every student-athlete that receives an offer, there should an immediate acceptance but that’s laughable. Non recruiting gurus like me, must believe the process works in such a way as to bring in the best young men. It’s all any of us on the outside, could ask for.

Recruiting classes come and go. Young men visit many places and something inside each of them gravitates to a particular place and they make their choice. For fans and media pundits, It’s easy to fall victim to the number of stars beside a players name and discount those young men that have a lesser or even no star rating. There are those that defy preconceived notions to become legends. Hunter Renfrow is proof positive of that fact.

I get it, you can’t compete at the highest levels by filling your recruiting classes with two and three star players and walk-ons but a few young men, raw and open to putting in the work to develop themselves, adds value exponentially to any team. It’s in the way a program develops these young men that makes the difference. Clemson and Nebraska have both incorporated and embraced a walk-on philosophy and I’m sure others do as well but Swinney and Clemson take a backseat to no other.

I suspect what makes a young 17-18 year old young man choose Clemson is winning. Certainly winning championships on the field but of equal importance, winning in the classroom and in life. With thirteen years of proof, I believe the chance to attend Clemson University is one only a very few will be lucky enough to get, but those that do, rarely regret their choice. They understand from the moment they arrive for their first visit to campus, they’re a part of a family and together, families can do anything.

The spotlight from now through the summer and fall will be on the next recruiting class. The class of 2023 is slowly taking shape but the tone has been set. This class, like all the others, has the potential to be great. For all that this program offers, it’s comes down to something as simple and as personal as a choice. Hopefully, each will make the decision that best serves them, even if it’s not Clemson.

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