THERE ARE college football coaches and administrators who would sell their souls when it comes to landing top recruits and trying to win national championships.
But would those same officials go so far as to trade their integrity as molders of young men and possibly tarnish their institutes of higher learning to bend to the demands of an 18-year-old, especially when he’s the country’s best high school player?
Whether or not Grayson (Ga.) High star defensive end Robert Nkemdiche tried to strong-arm Clemson, where he’s verbally committed, into bringing aboard a friend and teammate whose top offers are Mississippi and Southern Miss is debatable, although the fleet and powerful 6-foot-5, 260-pounder has denied issuing any sort of ultimatum to Tigers coach Dabo Swinney.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Nkemdiche said he was “waiting on Clemson to offer Ryan (Carter) and when that happens it’s locked, it’s a done deal, it’s over,” regarding the No. 1 recruit’s arrival in Tiger Town. Two of his high school teammates — defensive back David Kamara and tailback Wayne Gallman — have committed to Clemson, while quarterback Nick Schuessler (with whose family Nkemdiche lived on occasion) gave up a scholarship to Mississippi State for preferred walk-on status at Clemson.
The Grayson crew, specifically Nkemdiche, Kamara and Carter, had always dreamed of playing college ball together, and an offer to Carter from Swinney appears to be the last piece to the puzzle in securing the Tigers their highest-ranked recruit ever.
Following the AJC’s story, Nkemdiche tweeted that he “didn’t like the paper twisting his words.”
So what if he did try to hold Clemson over a barrel in trying to land a spot for a longtime pal who might not have otherwise gotten a look from the Tigers? Carter’s not a top prospect, but every college in the country has a long lineage of under-rated recruits who went on to long surpass their five-star, blue-chip brethren on the field.
Nkemdiche’s actions were unselfish and not only didn’t benefit him, he was actually tarnished by the national backlash that pegged him as just another spoiled athlete in a day and age when talented teens possess more power than ever before.
By all accounts, he was ready to declare for Clemson well in advance of when he did but knew if he kept his decision private, it would garner more recruiters to Grayson and provide extra looks for his teammates. When Nkemdiche did make his intentions known, it came with little fanfare as there was no nationally televised news conference or outrageous pep rally.
That’s a far cry from last year’s top national recruit — Jadeveon Clowney — soaking up every last ounce of attention. Not only did he not announce on National Signing Day, but also he waited until well after, keeping his suitors and fans in suspense before choosing South Carolina.
That’s not a condemnation of Clowney — it’s different strokes for different folks. But in a time when top prep players are treated like royalty, it’s refreshing to see Nkemdiche not only shying away from being an attention-grabber, but also trying to shine the spotlight on some less talented teammates.
The big kid has all the power right now, so it’s his right to wield it as he wants. While that may portray the state of recruiting as the inmates running the asylum, it’s also sadly become the nature of the business.