Derion Kendrick tends to keep to himself, a quiet person who doesn’t let on to what he’s thinking very often. But his head coach at Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe High, Strait Herron, has had a good idea from the beginning of his recruitment since Clemson first offered that the school had a good chance of being the final pick.
Herron got another indication of that during South Pointe’s run to the state championship in 2016, when Kendrick sported a Clemson logo underneath his shoulder pads.
“We played a couple of games late in the year in the playoffs, and he wore a shirt underneath his shoulder pads that had a mock collar on it, and on that mock collar was a Clemson paw,” Herron told The Clemson Insider during a recent interview. “Never said anything about it, but I noticed it. So, I had a pretty good idea that’s what he was leaning towards.”
Sure enough, Kendrick committed to Clemson on Jan. 28 over more than a dozen other offers including his childhood favorite school and second offer, Florida.
Sitting in Clemson co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach Jeff Scott’s office after Junior Day, Kendrick called Herron to inform him of his choice.
Herron ran through some basic questions with Kendrick to ensure he was firm in his decision, and it was clear that he was.
“They were recruiting him as a receiver, and he’s always expressed to me that he wanted to play DB, and I wanted to make sure he was good with that decision,” Herron said. “He was, and I could just tell that he is happy with his decision. He showed no concern. He had quick answers, saying yeah, I know it coach, I got it.”
Kendrick, a four-star athlete and the No. 1 prospect in South Carolina according to Scout.com, is a versatile athlete who a number of schools feel could play either receiver or defensive back in college.
While the Tigers are recruiting him as a receiver, they have expressed the potential opportunity for him to play on both sides of the ball.
It doesn’t happen often at the Division I level, but with Kendrick’s athleticism and versatility, it can’t be counted out as a possibility.
Kendrick showcased those traits as a junior, leading the Stallions to their third straight 4A state title as the team’s starting quarterback, throwing for 3,348 yards and 37 touchdowns while rushing for 630 yards and eight scores.
“The biggest thing that I think they’ll get is a highly competitive athlete, and he’s versatile also,” Herron said. “He can play offense and defense, and you don’t see that happening much at the Division I level. But I would think if there’s anybody capable of doing it, it’d be him.”
Kendrick isn’t just the complete package on the field. Beneath his tough exterior and personality lies the caring heart that Dabo Swinney looks for in recruits.
“He is a very kindhearted, softhearted person, even though he carries himself as a tough kid that’s coming from the background he came from,” Herron said. “Deep down inside, he’s a very caring kid. I think even though he can go out and compete, and he’s going to compete hard, it’s important to remember that he cares about people.”
That goes hand-in-hand with why Kendrick is drawn to Clemson — he cares about people, and knows he will be cared about at Clemson under Dabo Swinney, Scott and the staff.
“He’s very family oriented. Loves his mom and his siblings to death, and I think it was just kind of a mutual thing when they went to Clemson,” Herron said. “They just got a feeling of family. And so I think that’s the biggest thing for him is he feels like he’s going to go to Clemson and be a part of something more than just a football team. And I think that’s really important.”
So, Herron believes Kendrick is the perfect fit for Clemson.
And he can see him flourishing there in the future.
“I think he’ll do really well,” Herron said. “Like I said, he is a quiet kid, and I think he’s looking forward to getting out of Rock Hill. I think that once he gets to Clemson, he’ll grow up and he’ll mature real quick. He notices things, and he’ll notice what’s expected of him. I see him blossoming really quickly with them and just fitting right in.”