Son of former NFL first round pick to walk on at Clemson


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Regan Upshaw, Jr. and his dad at Clemson
Regan Upshaw, Jr. and his dad at Clemson

Brent Venables has another linebacker to train, and this one has the right bloodlines.

Linebacker Regan Upshaw, Jr., has accepted a preferred walk-on spot with the Clemson football team and will enroll in school later this month, just in time for Clemson’s second session of summer school.

Upshaw is the son of former NFL defensive end Regan Upshaw, who was the 12th overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft by the Tampa Buccaneers and played for five different teams between 1996 and 2004.

Upshaw, Jr., was a part of the 2015 recruiting cycle out of Tampa's (FL) Alonso High School, but never found the right place to continue his football career. He found it at Clemson, and it came about by accident after his parents picked up his sister from a camp in Brevard, North Carolina, and stopped by Clemson on the way back home to Florida.

“It's actually crazy. I love Clemson now, but I actually didn't know much about Clemson at all,” Upshaw said. “My parents literally were driving to pick my sister up from her camp in Brevard, and they just happened to drive by the camp. My dad was like, 'Wow, this is how real football is coached, and it's just an amazing environment.' He told me next year I could go to the camp if my grades were right. I went to the camp the following year, and that was all I knew. I just wanted to go to a camp and compete and have fun. That was my only goal going into the camp outside of really learning the linebacker position. That was my goal, and that's all there was to it.”

The elder Upshaw was impressed with Clemson’s coaching staff.

“My dad told me he's never seen football coached like this. That's why he let me go to the camp,” Upshaw said. “He saw from the younger age group to the older age groups at all of the camps; he had never seen football coached like that. He had never seen an experience or a camp like it. I think that's a lot of people's experience when they go to Clemson. There's really nothing like it, and he has the same view. He's excited, and he has nothing but positive words for me going into this college.”

Upshaw and his mother sat down with head coach Dabo Swinney after the camp visit.

“I talked to Dabo at the camp a lot. He talked to my mom and myself,” Upshaw said. “After the camp, he called us into the office and spoke to me about my opportunity to get a preferred walk-on spot on. He said he liked how I did at the camp. He had been watching me. Coach (Brent) Venables was at some of the drills I was at. I had a great time competing.”

Despite being a part of the 2015 class and having an Associate’s Degree, Upshaw will have four years to play at Clemson.

“I have all of my eligibility, but I got my Associate's at a young age,” he said. “I took some classes at St. Petersburg College in Florida, which is a community college. My mother had me take those classes.”

Upshaw said he can’t wait to be a part of the Clemson program.

“I can't explain it. I'm really excited. It's a dream come true,” he said. “I didn't know much about Clemson, but when I really got there and saw the environment and the atmosphere how much people there love football. I was like I couldn't think of it better. I couldn't imagine a better situation, especially for a national championship because that's always a goal and something you want to win and be the best. That's what everybody there wants to be.”

As a walk-on, he knows the competition for playing time will be fierce, but at six feet and 225 pounds, Upshaw says he can make an impact.

“I love competition, so I'm extremely excited to compete. Dabo gave me the real talk saying this is an opportunity for me and that if you work hard you never know what could happen,” he said. “Like he always told me - and I believe entirely - it's better to be prepared with no opportunity than to have an opportunity come and you're not. I know my work ethic, and I know when into the door I'm just excited to be around my teammates and work hard for playing time and really learn the game of football. That's what he explained to me. I know how the game works. That's all I expect.”


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