Inside the recruitment: Uiagalelei not afraid to sit a year, wants to play baseball

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Uiagalelei smiles on the sidelines before Clemson's spring game
Uiagalelei smiles on the sidelines before Clemson's spring game

As one of the nation’s most sought-after prospects, many wondered why 5-star quarterback DJ Uiagalelei would choose a school that already has a generational quarterback in place and sits completely across the country from his California home.

The answer is simpler than people think.

Uiagalelei, out of Bellflower (CA) St. John Bosco, committed to Clemson Sunday afternoon, adding the nation’s top-ranked signal caller to the Tigers’ top-ranked 2020 recruiting class. Uiagalelei chose Clemson over Oregon.

As a junior, Uiagalelei threw for 3,366 yards with a 69.6 completion percentage, 48 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions.

Why would he choose Clemson?

“The coaches’ openness about Jesus Christ and then ultimately being able to play on the biggest stage. They've played in three national championship games and they're getting the best players out there,” Uiagalelei told TigerNet. “I want to be on the biggest stage and I want to get to the NFL. As a competitor, you want to play on the biggest stage, so playing on the biggest stage is at Clemson. I can just see them continuing to grow and continuing to be at the same level they are and get the same type of players they continue to get.”

Does the distance matter? Not when you wanted to leave the West Coast anyway.

“No, not at all. If it's the right fit, distance won't really matter,” he said. “We talked about that I'd rather go 3,000 miles than go 30 miles for the right reasons. For me, I kind of wanted to get out from the West Coast or get out of California to get something different.”

A visit to Clemson’s campus in early campus convinced Uiagalelei, his family, and his coaches that Clemson was the perfect fit for his services.

“Same thing with Coach Frogg and his family, they came with us,” Uiagalelei said. “They all said, it's a no brainer where you should go. Especially, my mom and dad seeing it, there's no comparison. The stuff around the campus and the stuff they're talking about building, it's a no brainer.”

Uiagalelei committed to head coach Dabo Swinney on the field inside Memorial Stadium early in that April visit.

“He (Swinney) was crazy and ecstatic. We were on the field,” he said. “We were talking with Coach (Brandon) Streeter, Coach (Tony) Elliott, Coach Ty Clements, Jordan Sorrells. There were a bunch of us talking on the field and then walking off the field I just told them the story of when I felt it back in June the first time was here that the Holy Spirit told me this is the place is for me, so this is the place that I should be going to school. I told them all that and I wanted to know if I could commit to Clemson and be 'All In.' Coach Swinney gave me a big, 'Heck yeah,' and gave me a big hug. It was pretty cool.”

The Tigers already have a crowded quarterback room with Trevor Lawrence, Chase Brice, and Taisun Phommachanh, but Uiagalelei (who will arrive before Lawrence’s junior season), isn’t afraid to compete and he isn’t afraid to sit and learn.

“I'm just coming in to compete. If that means I sit behind him that year, it is what it is,” he said. “I'm just here to be the best teammate and whatever Clemson wants me to do, that's what I'm going to do. If they have me sitting, I'll learn and soak everything in.”

He also plans to play baseball for head coach Monte Lee. He also plans to enroll early and could play baseball next spring.

“That's the plan. I talked to Coach Lee. I want to play baseball. I'm still playing baseball,” Uiagalelei said. "Right now, it's just getting ready for the next season of football.”

What are his thoughts on Clemson’s 2020 recruiting class? It’s amazing so far but there is still work to do.

“It's going to be the best recruiting class ever,” Uiagalelei said. “Don't blink because there are more coming, don't worry. I'm going after everybody - Julian Fleming, E.J. Williams. There are a bunch of guys but those are the two guys that I'm on all the time.

“I'm 'All In!' Let's go. It's time to rock.”


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