Throwing hearts and darts: DJ Uiagalelei makes impression as family looks on


by - Senior Writer -
DJ hugs his dad,
DJ hugs his dad, "Big Dave" Uiagalelei (Photo per ACC).

CLEMSON – DJ Uiagalelei powered behind his offensive line to score the first touchdown of his collegiate career and immediately turned towards the stands where his parents were sitting and threw an imaginary heart to his mother.

For Uiagalelei and his family, the Tigers’ 49-0 victory over The Citadel was a game to remember.

Uiagalelei entered to start the Tigers' fourth drive, a short-field situation. On a 3rd-and-goal situation, his one-yard touchdown put Clemson up 35-0 with 13 minutes left in the second quarter. It was one of two rushing touchdowns on the day for the 250-pounder, who completed 8 of 11 passes (72.7 percent) for 75 yards and attempted three rushes for seven yards 2.3 average) and two touchdowns.

Uiagalelei made his collegiate debut last week at Wake Forest, but the Demon Deacons didn’t allow fans in the stands so his family stayed home in California. With Clemson allowing fans in the stands, there was no way the family would miss Uiagalelei’s first game in Death Valley.

“It was super cool to have my family here. My mom and my dad and my brother were here,” Uiagalelei said after the game. “My two uncles got to come. It was super cool to have them here. They told me they were going to be here and in the stands and I got to see them. When I scored my first touchdown I threw a heart to my mom in the stands, so that was great.”

Uiagalelei is known as a pocket passer, but he didn’t mind making plays with his legs.

"I got to run a little bit in high school, but usually, they didn't really want me to run till playoff time," Uiagalelei said. "So being able to run a touchdown in, that's always super cool. I mean, I've thrown a lot of touchdown passes over my career. So I always like running them in. My offensive line made great blocks ... and we're just able to get in the end zone, so hats off to them.

"It was super cool to go out there and just be able to play. I mean, just to see a lot of bullets and and run drives, just kind of be in the game and get reps — it was super cool. I mean, just being able to go against another team, being able to play, play my offense and just take live bullets and just be able to get playing time."

Uiagalelei’s size opens up interesting possibilities for the Tigers on the goal-line.

"I don't know — I'd say anything's possible," head coach Dabo Swinney said. "But what makes him effective is he's 250 pounds. He's a big, strong man. But anything's possible. That's for sure."

Offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said Uiagalelei reminds him of Tajh Boyd.

“I think, naturally, because of his size, but he was able to show it in live situations," Elliott said. "Obviously, in practice, he wears a purple jersey. We're not able to put him in those tough situations. You always want to protect the quarterback in practice. But definitely reminiscent to (former quarterback from 2010-13) Tajh (Boyd). I think he's definitely the closest to that style of runner that we've had in the last several years. So it's going to be fun down the stretch and in years to come, to kind of design some stuff and get back to our roots of that kind of quarterback-running back."

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