CENTRAL — When Jae’lon Oglesby was a tyke, he always was moving and wouldn’t leave the house without a ball in his hands. His parents remember frequently pulling him off the mesh ball basket at a grocery store as he tried to climb it.
His father thought basketball would be Jae’lon’s sport; his mother thought track. And both might have been possible until the opening game of Daniel’s 2011 football season.
Most every kid at Daniel High wants to play football, and Oglesby was no exception. He recalled watching his cousins at Daniel then signing scholarships to Clemson. It seemed beyond his imagination.
Third on the depth chart at running back as a sophomore, Oglesby said he didn’t expect to play much that season — until the first two went down with injuries by the second quarter of the Easley game. Knowing he did not have many options, coach Randy Robinson asked Oglesby if he was prepared to carry the load. Oglesby rushed for more than 200 yards.
More than 6,000 yards later, Oglesby’s future seemed evident.
“He can play everywhere,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.
Holder of the state high school record for rushing yardage in a game, Oglesby averaged 9.8 yard per carry in Daniel’s run to the state final last fall.
Oglesby continues the pipeline of Daniel talent to Clemson. There could be at least five former Daniel players on the Clemson depth chart this fall. His link to the school is more personal. His grandmother — Ann LaVerne Williams — was one of the first African-American females to graduate from Clemson.
“Everybody says he’s a little light, and I know he weighs — what? — 180 pounds, but you get him the ball in space, and it don’t matter how big you are,” Robinson said. “He’s not a redshirt guy. He’s a guy who can go in and help right now.
“Don’t be shocked if Jae’lon goes down there and helps them win this fall.”
Swinney compared Oglesby to former Alabama teammate David Palmer, an All-American and seven-year NFL veteran, “a tiny bit taller and faster.”
Robinson said he thought he exhausted his once-in-a-lifetime players when DeAndre Hopkins left Daniel for Clemson. Now, he said, it’s two and counting.
“The secret to him is vision. He sees cuts before they happen,” he said. “Those are things you don’t coach. Kids are born with that.”
And after they’re born, they want a ball.
“He toted the ball to every grocery store we went into,” Oglesby’s mother said. “By the time he was 3 or 4, he had a room full of balls.”
His parents, who admittedly “bleed orange,” marvel at Jae’lon’s skill.
“You can’t coach at lot of that stuff,” his father said, though mom admitted she worried, “every Friday night.”
Before he can enroll this summer, there’s still work to be done. Robinson said they were waiting on a test score that should be the final hurdle.
A slender 170 for basketball, Oglesby said he intends to be at 180 by September. A flirtation last spring as a receiver was dashed because, “I prefer running behind the big guys with five holes to choose from.”
Oglesby said he wasn’t concerned Clemson seemed to be stockpiling backs.
“They say playing time is going to come,” he said. “I feel like they’re going to spread the wealth.”
Just give him a ball.