When top high school football prospects choose their college, any number of things can go into the decision.
Sometimes, as in the case of the Bosa brothers at Ohio State, it’s familial ties that matter. In other cases, as many Alabama players can attest, it’s finding the best opportunity to get drafted into the NFL. Some players choose schools based on location, coaches, opportunity to start and, occasionally, whoever pays them the most under the table.
Speaking to ESPN, Uiagalelei, a junior at St. John Bosco High School in Southern California, said his Christian faith played a huge role in his decision to become a Tiger.
“My faith is important to me, and the first time I went out there was in June, and that’s what sold me, knowing they’re all big Christians,” Uiagalelei said. “I didn’t commit when I was out there, but that’s when I told myself that’s where I wanted to be.”
The 6-foot-5, 245-pound quarterback certainly didn’t lack suitors. Virtually every major program wanted Uiagalelei for his prototypical size and throwing prowess.
But in the end, Clemson won out, and the Tigers now have an immediate heir apparent to superstar sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Speaking of Lawrence, the erstwhile Clemson starter embodies much of what Uiagalelei cited when it comes to “big Christians” at Clemson.
“Football’s important to me, obviously, but it’s just not my life,” Lawrence said in a September media session. “It’s not like the biggest thing in my life, I would say. My faith is.”
“Putting my identity in what Christ says, and who He thinks I am, and who I know that He says I am,” Lawrence added. “Really, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what people think about me or how good they think I played or whatever.”
“Just putting my identity in what Christ says and who He thinks I am and who I know that He says I am.”
– Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence
— Jason Romano (@JasonRomano) December 30, 2018
But of course, no discussion about Clemson football’s faith-based leadership can be complete without mentioning head coach Dabo Swinney.
The 49-year-old coach has always worn his faith on his sleeve, and that leadership has clearly trickled down to his football program.
— ? DJ Uiagalelei ? (@DJUiagalelei) June 15, 2018
Swinney’s most memorable faith-based moment on the national stage happened in January after he won his second national championship in three years with a resounding 44-16 win over Alabama.
“Dabo, there are few coaches in any sport who show more joy than you do,” ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi asked in the immediate aftermath of the game. “How do you describe the joy of the moment?”
“For me personally, joy comes from focusing on Jesus, others, then yourself,” Swinney responded, without skipping a beat.
“It’s a blessing,” he said. “It’s simply the grace of the good Lord to allow us to experience something like this.”
It’s pretty clear that leadership and Christianity are closely intertwined within the Clemson football program. Assuming Lawrence goes pro after his junior year, that Christian leadership may have just secured another several years of football dominance.
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