Team First: DJ Uiagalelei cares more about championships than the Elite 11


by - Senior Writer -
Uiagalelei works out at Dabo Swinney's high school camp earlier this month
Uiagalelei works out at Dabo Swinney's high school camp earlier this month

DJ Uiagalelei cares more about team championships than he does his own awards and he cares more about his teammates than he does himself.

Uiagalelei will fit in just fine at Clemson.

Uiagalelei is the 5-star 2020 quarterback out of Bellflower (CA) St. John Bosco that committed to Clemson last June. It’s always been a dream of Uiagalelei’s to participate in the Elite 11 – the nation’s premier high school quarterback competition – but even though he has an invitation to participate in this year’s event at The Star in Frisco, Texas, he wants to spend the time with his high school teammates.

Bosco defeated fellow California high school power Mater Dei during the regular season in 2018 and those two teams faced off again in the Southern Section Division 1 championship game at Cerritos College in late November. Bosco was undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the state, but fell 17-13.

The normally robust Bosco offense entered the game averaging 470 yards per game, but Mater Dei held them to just 202 yards as Uiagalelei completed just 7-of-19 passes for 105 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions.

The loss still stings.

California rules allow high school teams to practice this time of year, so Uiagalelei decided to skip the Elite 11 and stay home with this teammates.

“I always wanted to play in the Elite 11 but right now I would miss a lot of days of practice,” he told TigerNet. “I would probably miss five days of practice. For me, the end goal for me is not to win the Elite 11. It’s to win a state championship.

“It was kind of an easy decision for me. I always wanted to do the Elite 11 but it’s not my biggest goal this year.”

Uiagalelei said that while his commitment to Clemson means he doesn’t have anything to prove, it didn’t play a role in his decision to stay home.

“For me, it didn’t really matter. Even if I wasn’t committed, the decision was based on where I was committed or not,” he said. “It was just basically that my goal is to win a championship and if staying those extra days with my team is going to help, then that’s what I’m going to do.”

It helps that he’s finally healthy after suffering a gash (that went to the bone) in his left hand earlier this spring.

“I’ve just been working with the guys. I’ve been training to just get my body right and my arm right to be ready for the season,” Uiagalelei said. “I feel good. Baseball season is over so I’ve got my arm back in shape. The ball is coming out good, so it feels good right now.

“My left hand is fine. It’s 100-percent, so it’s not bothering me or anything.”

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