Dabo Swinney had to fight for him, but Grady Jarrett stands out as a favorite recruit
|Monday, May 17, 2021, 1:00 PM- -|
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has a track record of developing under-the-radar football players into stars, but he has one that is his all-time favorite.
Swinney has taken chances on players who weren’t highly thought of by the scouting services – guys like Grady Jarrett, Adam Humphries, TJ Green and Vic Beasley – but who have gone on to have NFL careers. Some, like Denzel Johnson and Jalen Williams, parlayed the Clemson coaches’ trust into solid college careers.
One of those stands out, according to Swinney, who said he had to convince the members of his coaching staff that the prospect was worth the gamble.
“That's Grady Jarrett, who is the 37th highest-paid athlete in the world right now. He was a two-star recruit, but he was the state wrestling champ, led the State of Georgia in sacks. And he was from down there in Rockdale, Georgia,” Swinney said last week in a podcast with Colin Cowherd. “And he came to camp, all right. He comes to camp, I'll never forget it, I go over to watch the OL/DL, pass rush section. And (former Clemson defensive line coach) Dan Brooks, he goes, ‘You need to watch this kid.’ And so, I watched him and I mean, he was destroying everybody. He's barely six feet, on his tippy toes. And doesn't have any of the measurables that you want. If you met him to this day, you would never know who he is, it's amazing. But I watched him and we already had a kid who was kind of similar body type and actually he plays for the Broncos now, a kid named DeShawn Williams.
“And I'll never forget, I'm watching, I'm watching. I'm watching his mom over there. His mom's into... she's older. She's as much into it as he is. And he would go and he'd go and get in line again. And he didn't care who he went against. And I'm like, ‘Man, this is what I want on my team.’...And so, this would have been 2010. I told his mom and this kid to come to my office. And so, some of the coaches heard about it. And I said, ‘Man, I'm all for this kid.’ And I had some of my coaches, man, we had the staff meeting, talked about it. I got the mom and Grady come into my office and I already know I'm going to offer him.”
Swinney said some of his coaches didn’t like Jarrett’s lack of height.
“And I get in there, and man, it was one of… I listened, it was a coming to Jesus meeting,” Swinney said. “And I had coaches like, ‘Coach, we cannot do that. We don't need another short guy.’ And I listened for a little while and finally, I said, ‘Well, I'll tell you what. Here's what we're going to do. I've been doing camp for a long time and I have yet to see anybody like that guy. And I want that guy on this team and he's going to be a coach Swinney signee. If he stinks, it ain't nobody's fault. I'm not going to hold anybody accountable, all right. This is a hundred percent on me. Nobody's accountable for this guy.’
“Well, we signed him and there was some hurt feelings and a little pouting and all that. And so, next thing you know, I got this kid in my office and his mama, Elisha Jarrett, and she's an amazing lady. And I told them, I said, ‘Look, I'm just telling you right now, what you got, we want on this team.’ And we had a great talk. Well, he commits. And we beat the University of Buffalo to get this guy, he had no offers. And he comes in here and he ends up starting as a true freshman. And in his senior year of 2014, we were the number one defense in the country, in every statistical category. Every single one of them.”
NFL scouts and executives weren’t sold on Jarrett, either.
“Guess what? He's too short, his arms aren't long enough. He's not big enough. He's barely 300 pounds, whatever, all that stuff,” Swinney said. “And I sat in my office with Dan Quinn (then the Falcons head coach) and the GM, because they wanted me to draft Vic Beasley. I said, ‘Well, you're going to love Vic Beasley, because he's a freaky dude, man. This guy can rush the passer, he's going to make you better.’ I said, ‘But Grady Jarrett, will change your locker room. He'll change your community. He's going to make you better as coaches.’ And that's the guy, and literally to this day, if you told me I could redraft my team, start approving them all over again, and draft from all the kids that I've had in this program, he'd be in my top three draft picks.
“And he was a fifth-round draft pick and if you went back right now and looked at all the D-tackles that were drafted in front of Grady Jarrett, it's embarrassing. It's embarrassing. Most of them aren’t in the league anymore. This guy is an unbelievable human being. One of the greatest leaders I've ever been around. He is a foundational piece to what we enjoy today. He didn't get a chance to win a National Championship, but you best believe we would never have won one if it wasn't for Grady Jarrett and the impact that he had while he was here.”