Clemson University

Kirk Herbstreit’s sons grew up Ohio State fans. Why they chose Clemson instead

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney breaks down 2019 recruiting class

Tigers added two scholarship prospects Wednesday
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Tigers added two scholarship prospects Wednesday

Tye and Jake Herbstreit grew up rooting for the school where their father and ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit played — Ohio State.

When it came time for Kirk’s twin sons to decide where they were going to play college football, they chose a different powerhouse program.

Tye and Jake officially signed paperwork to join Clemson as preferred walk-ons on Wednesday after deciding during the fall that they were going to come play for Dabo Swinney’s squad. Kirk explained prior to Clemson’s national championship win against Alabama why his sons chose to play for the Tigers.

“They are complete brainwashed Ohio State fans. They have been their whole lives, all four of my boys,” Kirk explained. “When they got into high school football, decided to go to camps over their high school career, they went to an Ohio State camp, Alabama, they went to Clemson this past summer. Did well enough for Dabo and for his staff to kind of reach out to us and talk about a preferred walk-on to have an opportunity to go there.

It was completely up to them. I had no idea if they were going to play football in college or not. After that camp, I think they were more confident that they might have an opportunity.”

Tye and Jake met with Swinney while on campus at Clemson, and the Tigers’ head coach told the boys his story of how he walked on at Alabama before beginning his professional life.

The meeting with Swinney played a big role in Tye and Jake choosing to attend Clemson.

“They really didn’t know anything about his time at Alabama, how he grew up, how when he showed up to practice the first day, he’s like 15th string or whatever it was, how discouraged he was, how he kind of worked his way up and eventually got to play, and went on to be part of a national championship team,” Kirk said. “(Swinney) said he has friendships for a lifetime. He talked about how he runs his program. Whether it’s Trevor Lawrence or a preferred walk-on, he treats everybody the same.”

The Herbstreits are from Nashville and played at Montgomery Bell Academy. Tye is a receiver, while Jake is a defensive back.

Swinney is thrilled to have Kirk’s sons on board and said during his signing day press conference Wednesday that Clemson recruited Tye and Jake the same way that it does all of its preferred walk-ons. He added that the first thing the Tigers did was make sure the two were good enough to join Clemson’s team as preferred walk-ons.

“When we bring in preferred guys there’s a whole process that goes into that. They needed to come to camp. They did that... (Kirk) let me know early that they wanted to go to a big school and probably walk on. They had some smaller offers, but they really wanted to go to a bigger school and get that experience,” Swinney said. “ We got them in camp and had an opportunity to spend time with them.

“That’s a great compliment that Kirk signs off on his kids coming to Clemson. He’s been around everywhere and so have his kids.”

Matt Connolly is the Clemson beat writer and covers recruiting and college sports for The State newspaper and The