From Cadet to Raider
From Cadet To Raider
When you are a critical component of a team that put forth a devastating performance in winning the NCAA's national crown, and when you've been balancing the severe demands of that role with those of the classroom, and when you're one of the most recognized figures on campus, what do you do when you get a bit of time off from that grind?
How about if you are a first-round NFL draft pick (Oakland Raiders—fourth, overall)?
If you're Clelin Ferrell, you head back to your high school and catch up with old friends, coaches and teachers (many of whom are one and the same) at one of its football games from a sideline vantage.
And if you're Clelin Ferrell, you aren't like your average bear, er, Tiger, er Raider. The man who is a part of what is widely considered the finest defensive line in all of college football was standing where it all started this past autumn: on the sidelines with the Benedictine Cadets as they beat Collegiate. Each year since he graduated (in '15), Ferrell has made a similar low-key appearance. "This is my routine," he said. "I love coming back and seeing my alma mater. I love Benedictine."
And, of course, the feeling is mutual. "I think Clelin was raised in a tight family. He's close to his mom, brothers and sisters," said Cadet Head Football Coach Greg Lilly. "And I think he sees Benedictine as an extension of that family."
Clelin made headlines during the 2019 NFL draft when he became the second-highest draftee from the Commonwealth of Virginia. His selection at #4 matches the highest-ever draft pick from the football powerhouse that is Clemson.
“I can’t think of a more deserving individual,” noted Coach Lilly. “His selection is a testament to his hard-work and dedication. Clelin has worked for everything he’s earned and is the ultimate teammate.”
In typical Clelin fashion, he opted to watch the draft among family and friends at a local watch party, rather than opt for a gaudier proposition. His love of home and family is well known and is a defining component of who he is.
Clelin has also stayed true to his high school roots. He returned to Benedictine following the national-championship win over Alabama. He also came back with a television crew to tape some pre-draft footage. He took advantage of that time to swing by and visit Lilly, athletic director John Fogarty, headmaster Jesse Grapes and a bunch of other staff and faculty.
Ferrell helped establish Benedictine as a state-wide football powerhouse. During his sophomore season, he helped drive the Cadets to the playoffs, starting a string of post-season appearances that had the Big Green in its eighth-straight tourney.
Ferrell helped prime a pump that sent a flood of Benedictine footballers to the Atlantic Coast Conference. Today, Duke, UNC, Pittsburgh, UVA, Virginia Tech and Clemson all include Cadets on their rosters.
So, yes, Ferrell had plenty of other things he could have been doing on that weekend. He could have been admiring the Sports Illustrated cover that featured him and his fellow D-linemen. He could have been checking out where Mel Kiper and the other NFL draft gurus predict he'll be chosen (accurately, as it turns out, in the first round). He could have been reveling in the adoration of the Tiger faithful, which dominates the town of Clemson.
But, instead, he was on the sidelines of a high school football game, nondescript (except for his imposing physique) and rooting from his heart for a team and a school that he still holds dear.
He's not alone. On that particular Friday afternoon, other graduates dotted the sideline: Sylvester Mayers, Daric Cotman and Ramon Jones.
They are always most welcome, for they personify the bond between these men and their school–a bond that can never be broken. In Ferrell's case, he's known for many things, including being a national champion.
And while we don't know what the future holds for him in his inaugural NFL season (or for those beyond), there's one thing of which we are certain: Whether decked out in Clemson orange or Raider black, Clelin Ferrell will always be known to us as one who so eloquently donned Benedictine green.
And, of course, we’ll always hold a place for him on the Cadet sideline!
Article Written by Mike Forster, Communications Director, BCP