2019 athlete Antonio Clary is one of the players at Sandalwood High in Jacksonville, Fla., who has heard a lot about Clemson in the short time since former Tigers linebacker Eric Sampson took over as the team’s defensive coordinator.
“He just got hired as our defensive coordinator after the season ended coming into this year, so he’s new to us, but he loves Clemson,” Clary told TCI.
Last Saturday, Clary got to see what all of the talk is about.
Sampson, who played at Clemson during the Tommy Bowden era, brought Clary and a few other players to Clemson for the annual Orange & White spring game.
“I loved it,” Clary said. “It was a great experience, seeing a national championship program like that and being able to see the new facilities, meet with the coaches and the players, and just talk with them and have a good time. It was great.”
With it being his first time at Clemson, Clary made sure to soak in the atmosphere.
“I’d say the highlight was pregame, going on the field, watching them warm up and watching them come down the hill,” he said. “Just being in that moment and the feeling for the first time.”
Before the game, Sampson introduced Clary to Dabo Swinney.
“We were just chit-chatting, but he was about to get on the bus with the players, so we couldn’t talk for long,” Clary said. “He just said keep working hard, you’re a great player and stuff like that, and I’ll come see you soon.”
Clary — whose brother, Phil Benker, is a rising sophomore wide receiver at Indiana — is drawing early interest from Florida Atlantic, Florida State, Georgia, Indiana and North Carolina.
Nick Saban stopped by Sandalwood in January to see cornerback Ameer Speed, who signed with Georgia a month later, and also check up on Clary.
Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott let Clary know he will be visiting him, too.
“He was just telling me how he’s going to come down in the spring to watch me play and get to know me more and stuff like that,” Clary said. “Just can’t wait to see me.”
Clary moved around the field at wide receiver, defensive back and quarterback last season, and said Clemson is looking at him as an athlete right now. He described himself as a hard worker, good leader and focused player.
His recruitment is only in its initial stages, but academics will be a priority as he evaluates his college choices in the future.
Clemson checks that box for him.
“It’s a great school and you get the great education,” Clary said. “And their football program, they really dedicate themselves to it.”