For Clemson fans, coaches and players–the date June 12, 2017, will be forever ingrained into their collective memories as the date when the 2016 Clemson Tigers football team made the trek to Washington, D.C. to meet the president and receiver national recognition for winning the 2016 college football national championship.
But for one person, that date will have a special place in his heart for another reason.
“I committed the same day the time went to the White House! So, it was a special day all the way around,” Darnell Jefferies said. “My family and friends were with me at my reveal party, then once I made the announcement on Twitter everything went crazy! People were calling, texting, tweeting but the highlight was when Coach Swinney called, he was so excited and it was something I Will never forget!”
The 6-foot-4, 280-pound, three-star defensive lineman out of Newton High School (Covington, GA) had offers from 25 schools including Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Miami, Notre Dame, Ohio State, South Carolina and Tennessee.
But after visiting the Tigers and hearing how everything was “different” at Clemson, Jefferies was not sure if “different” was right for him—until he put on the orange.
“I came to Clemson truly undecided and with my options wide-open, they kept saying it was something different about Clemson and I was thinking, I like it–but I’m not feeling the “different” yet,” Jefferies said Then the more I saw the more this feeling came over me, then I put the uniform on and I just knew, this is the place for me…period! In that instance, I just knew.
“The Coaches, players and just everybody there are really awesome, not perfect…but awesome and that’s what I really love.”
For Jefferies, being a part of what is potentially a historic signing class—with the Tigers having three of the top ranked players at each of their positions in quarterback Trevor Lawrence, defensive lineman Xavier Thomas and kicker B.T. Potter—is great, but what sets this class apart, for him, is not the stars—it’s the relationships.
“I am so excited about being great with this special group of guys. It’s a great class of talent, but more then that, they are just real cool guys,” Jefferies said. “People may know about or talent, but it’s our chemistry that I love most! Not a week goes by that we are not texting each other and just checking on one another.”
In fact, the bond that Jefferies has with two of his future teammates goes all the way back to middle school.
“Yes, Justin (Mascoll) and Trevor (Lawrence) have known each other and played together since middle school. Trevor and I actually won a National Championship in Texas,” Jefferies said.
While commits at other schools are busy trying to play the role of recruiter for their chosen school, Jefferies is not really into pressuring other recruits to choose Clemson. The reason being— “Clemson speaks for itself.”
“To me Clemson speaks for itself! Recruiting is hard, really hard. And when a place is right for you–you
just know it,” Jefferies said. “I do get asked by other recruits about Clemson and I encourage each of them to get on campus and take in the whole experience that is Clemson and if it’s for them they will know.”
With only one season of high school football remaining before making the jump to the ranks of the college game in January 2018, Jefferies has already gotten a head start on getting bigger, stronger and faster—which is a scary thought for high school offenses this season.
“They (the Clemson coaches) know I have some goals I’m working on and started in the winter a three times a day workout program, to get bigger, stronger and faster,” Jefferies said. “My personal trainer is a Clemson Grad [sic], and he has really helped me with speed and strength. The Coaches [sic] agree that will really help me and they will continue to build on it.”
For Jefferies, his greatest strengths and weakness are two things that should have Tiger fans excited to see him suit up in the orange and white, and two things that should have opposing coordinators worrying.
“I hate losing, I mean I hate it,” Jefferies said. “My work ethic (greatest strength) …I won’t be outworked. My absolute love for this game that I’ve been playing consistently since I was 6 [sic] years old.”
With Jefferies season starting next Saturday, it is unclear when he will again make the trek to Clemson, but fans need not worry, as the coaching staff is making sure they are staying in touch.
“They keep in touch with me all the time by text or DMs, they never let to [sic] much time pass,” Jefferies said.