Big Ben or Mariano? No. 1 QB recruit hopes to juggle sports at Clemson

Yahoo Sports

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – The wavy blond hair of Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence frames the defining face of college football for the next two seasons. After leading Clemson to a national title as a true freshman and establishing himself as the sport’s best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck, Lawrence’s true freshman season will long resonate as a standard for initial on-field success.

Nearly 3,000 miles away, the big-armed quarterback who could be the face of high school football this season has been following closely.

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St. John Bosco rising senior quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, the Rivals.com No. 1 overall recruit for 2020, has already announced that he plans to join Lawrence at Clemson. At 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, Uiagalelei’s career has carried with it an aura of limitless potential. He can throw a football 80 yards, already has an NFL-type body and has thrown for 77 touchdowns and just nine interceptions while playing for one of the country’s elite high school programs.

Uiagalelei committed to Clemson in May, but he’s been locked in on the school long before that. That includes four trips to campus and watching Lawrence lead Clemson to a blowout 44-16 victory in the College Football Playoff title game in Santa Clara (California) earlier this year.

“It was tight,” Uiagalelei told Yahoo Sports. “It was cool to see all the people and fans there. It was a beat down. It wasn’t like it was a lucky win. They rolled Alabama.”

The question for Uiagalelei will be whether he can help keep Clemson on its impressive roll. He said he stays in touch with Lawrence via text and has been impressed watching him from afar. “Trevor is that guy, he’s that dude,” Uiagalelei said. “He’s for real. He’s no joke.”

D.J. Uiagalelei is expected to be the Clemson Tigers' quarterback of the future. (Photo credit: Nicolas Lucero/Rivals)
D.J. Uiagalelei is expected to be the Clemson Tigers' quarterback of the future. (Photo credit: Nicolas Lucero/Rivals)

Uiagalelei gave some insight to Yahoo Sports on Thursday at the QB Collective Camp here about how he plans to handle the logistics of his college career. Uiagalelei is also a promising baseball player, a pitcher with a 95 MPH fastball who has the raw talent to be a major league baseball prospect.

One of the allures of Clemson was potentially playing both sports there, and that’s something that Uiagalelei said he’s still considering doing. “I’m going to graduate early,” he said. “That’s the plan right now. Unless something changes with the MLB Draft or something like that. I’m on track to graduate early.

“Right now, the thing is that I’ll most likely play spring baseball [at Clemson] instead of my senior year. I still don’t know. It might change, but that’d be the plan. I would do both [sports at Clemson].”

Uiagalelei said he only played a few baseball games for Bosco this season, including pitching in relief. He hopes that if he ends up playing baseball, that would end up being his role.

“It would be a dream to be a relief pitcher,” he said. “You only have to come in and throw an inning. You get paid to throw one inning a night. You don’t have to save energy. You can go all out.”

For now, however, most of Uiagalelei’s actions hint that he’s going to end up focusing on football. He’s the country’s No. 1 quarterback recruit, top overall recruit and is the type of physical specimen that’s rare in this sport.

After a morning throwing session at the QB Collective Camp here on Thursday, Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur spent five minutes chatting with him. Longtime former NFL coach Mike Shanahan also pulled him aside for a few words.

The NFL coaches and private quarterback tutors who work at the QB Collective every year noticed more refinement in Uiagalelei’s game. He’s been working out consistently with a private physical trainer, Chris “Coach Frogg” Flores of Stars in Orange County, as his baby fat has been replaced by chiseled muscle (Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has been his workout partner.) His father, David Uiagalelei, said in a phone interview on Thursday that his son has also changed his diet, giving up soda and fast food and replacing them with proteins and lean meats.

“He looks great,” said Danny Hernandez, his personal quarterback trainer. “He’s moving around a lot better. It’s translated into him being a little more twitchy and sudden as a quarterback, which is huge.”

Uiagalelei said his main focus the next few months will be leading Bosco to a state title, as they’ve fallen short to rival Mater Dei the past two seasons. From there, he’ll soon head off to Clemson to start one of the most anticipated careers in recent years. No matter what direction he chooses.

“I wanted to do something different,” Uiagalelei said. “I didn’t want to be like the normal person. I wanted to do something different to put myself in the best position.”

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