Could Jay Rome be Clemson's next two sport star?

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON -- Former Clemson standout Stan Rome knows a thing or two about two sport athletes.

Rome, out of Valdosta, Ga., came to Clemson back in the mid-1970s and played both sports during the 1975-76 academic year. He came to Clemson as a basketball player starting with the 1974-75 academic year, but wound up with 15 catches for 306 yards and two touchdowns in 1975 as a wide receiver for the football team, and he later played professional football with the Kansas City Chiefs for four seasons.

So it’s no surprise that Rome sees a little of himself in his son, Jay Rome, a highly-coveted tight end prospect that recently whittled his college choices down to four teams – Clemson, Alabama, Florida and Georgia.

The youngest Rome recently completed a summer trip with the Smyrna Stars, an AAU basketball team, arriving home late Sunday night to begin preparations for his senior year of high school football, the sport that has college recruiters drooling over the 6-6, 230-pounders potential.

The elder Rome was somewhat of a legend on the hardwood in the Valdosta area, but wound up being known more his football prowess, but he says that basketball was his first love.

“Actually, basketball was my favorite,” Stan Rome said Monday. “I had more passion for basketball than I did football, but I was probably a better football player. But I wasn’t bad at basketball either.”

Rome said that he believes playing basketball greatly enhances his sons’ athletic ability and his ability as a football player.

“It helps improve his athleticism as a tight end and as a receiver,” Rome said. “It helps his foot speed, his quickness and his explosion. It is all tied in together. It is a completely different type of conditioning and a different type of preparation for a season. Football is, of course, more aggressive and contact-oriented. But the finesse of basketball still helps you as a receiver.”

Rome said that he has no clue which way his son is leaning at this point, and would never push him to just follow in his footsteps at Clemson, but that some school might get an edge if the opportunity to play both sports arose.

“I would be afraid to say that there is a favorite, because it will all come down to where Jay feels most comfortable,” Rome said. “He will pick the program that he believes is best suited for him at that particular time. It’s not going to be one particular area, but a combination of athletics and academics, and where he may have the best opportunity to play and make an impact the earliest.

“I don’t necessarily think he will play both sports, but if the opportunity was there, and he chose to play both, that might have something to do with it. He is completely different than I was because he loves both sports and I can’t see where he has a passion for one over the other like I did.”

Rome said that living in south Georgia doesn’t enable him to follow the Tigers as closely as he would like, but he has been impressed with the job that Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has done in his short tenure.

“It is difficult to keep up with them really close, but I thought he did a really good job last season,” Rome said. “I thought they made a lot of improvements. I like his enthusiasm, and the fact that he is really straightforward. He is really easy to get along with, and he seems to really care a lot about his players.”

Rome finished up by saying that no matter which direction Jay chooses, he will be proud of the athlete for sure, but will be more proud of the young man.

“I feel really blessed, and I feel like God has smiled down on us,” he said. “Sometimes I look out on the field, and I am proud of Jay, but I am more proud of the student and the person that he is. I like the fact that he is more well-rounded than I was. I was just an ok student, but he is a really smart young man and a good student. I like to think that he has learned from some of my mistakes.”

NOTE: Rome likely will just play football in college, but Clemson has had its share of two-sport stars, with the most recent being Kyle Parker, who excelled in both football and baseball.

Some other stars who played both basketball and football, or attempted to, at Clemson are:

*Mike Eppley played both sports at Clemson as a quarterback and point guard for four years (1980-81 through 1983-84).

*Former wide receiver Chansi Stuckey practiced with the Clemson basketball team in 2002 but never appeared in a Clemson basketball game.

*In addition to Eppley and Rome, the only other Clemson athletes in the ACC era (since 1953-54) to play in at least one football game and one basketball game over his career are Gary Cooper, who lettered in football from 1986-89 and played one game during the 1987-88 basketball season, and Patrick Sapp, a Clemson football scholarship athlete from 1992-95 who played four games for Rick Barnes’ Tigers during the 1994-95 season.

*All-time Clemson legend Banks McFadden played with distinction in both sports from 1937-40. He led the Clemson basketball team to its only postseason tournament championship in March of 1939, then led the Clemson football team to a Cotton Bowl victory over Boston College in January of 1940. He was named the nation's most versatile athlete in 1939 and is the only athlete in Clemson history to be named All-American in both sports.

Comment on this story
Send Feedback to David Hood: Email | Comment
Clemson makes top-5 for 4-star TE
Clemson makes top-5 for 4-star TE
Clemson looks to snap streak versus BC Saturday
Clemson looks to snap streak versus BC Saturday
Clemson Friday game postponed, doubleheader scheduled
Clemson Friday game postponed, doubleheader scheduled
Clemson women's basketball falls at Georgia Tech
Clemson women's basketball falls at Georgia Tech
Post your comments!
Sign Up for E-Mail News Alerts
Daily Digest