Jake Nicolopulos' journey to the Hill


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From Jeffrey Collins of the AP:

Nicolopulos still walks with a noticeable limp. He shakes hands with his left hand, because he still can't do much with the right one after the stroke that nearly killed him in December 2009 when he was an 18-year-old star linebacker from nearby T.L. Hanna High School.

Nicolopulos had already promised to come to Clemson, and the school kept its commitment. He is a student-coach on scholarship, taking two classes, even though in the excitement right after coming down the hill at Death Valley, he couldn't recall their names. He apologized, but never stopped smiling.

The run down the hill was the conclusion of several promises Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and his chief recruiter back in 2009, Brad Scott, made at Nicolopulos' bedside after the stroke, when some wondered if Nicolopulos would ever walk again. They presented him with a No. 9 jersey and he grabbed the shirt with his left arm, the only one he could move at the time. He pulled it up to his face.

Three months later, rehab had helped him enough that he could sign his name to his letter of intent to Clemson. Seven months later, he was at Memorial Stadium to watch the Tigers 2010 opener against North Texas.

On Saturday, he wore khaki pants and a Clemson polo shirt as he got on the sidelines. He slapped players on the back on the bench and always answered when someone asked how he was doing. "Good. Leg is OK."

Swinney promised Nicolopulos' family they would treat him like any other Tiger. The head coach has said more than once that his team can learn a lot from him.

"God had a little bit of a different plan for him. But I don't have doubt at all Jake NicolopulosJake Nicolopulos
Linebacker
# 6-2, 220
Anderson, SC

View Full Profile
will make an impact at Clemson," Swinney said when he signed him.

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