Clelin Ferrell did not try to lie. He admitted his decision to come back to Clemson and play one more season was a very difficult one.
It was one that could have gone either way.
However, the Tigers’ All-American defensive end made sure to inform the media following Wednesday’s first day of spring practice that his reason for returning to school had nothing to do with his draft stock.
“I want to leave a strong legacy here for when I leave,” he said. “People think I came back just to improve my draft stock when that really was one of the last reasons why I came back.
“When I came to Clemson, I wanted to be known as one of the best players to come through here on defense and that is one of the strongest reasons why I came back. When I came to college, one of my goals was not to leave here in three years and go to the NFL … it was to be a great player here. That was kind of the biggest thing for me, not to improve my draft stock.”
Ferrell received a second-round grade by the NFL Draft Advisory Board in January, which he said did not surprise him at all.
“I’m not going to go just off of what they say, but more so how ready I felt I am,” he said. “I was kind of blessed to hear that … second-round grade that is kind of crazy for me. I have been playing for two years and not having the three full years under my belt. I was not too surprised.”
Ferrell went back-and-forth with his decision. He prayed hard about it and consulted with his family, friends and of course his coaches.
“At the end of the day, I felt like I made the best decision for me,” he said.
It turned out to be a great decision for Clemson, too.
Ferrell’s return, gives Clemson an All-American back at defensive end, where he joins All-American defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and All-American defensive end Austin Bryant on the defensive line. Like Ferrell, they too decided to return to Clemson for one more season when many expected them to turn professional as well.
However, Ferrell confirmed the three ultimately made their decisions on their own and did what was best for them as individuals, not as a collective group. It just so happened they all decided returning to Clemson was in their best interest.
“We talked about it, but when you look at it, that would have kind of been a naïve decision because we all could have made decisions to go and leave together, but we are not going to get drafted to the same team,” he said. “So at the end of the day we just understood that we had to make the best decisions for ourselves and lucky for us, all of us felt like that was to come back. We are happy that we get to go at it again one more time.”
Last fall, Ferrell led the Tigers and ranked second in the ACC with 9.5 sacks as well as with his 18 tackles for loss. The redshirt sophomore finished with 63 tackles overall and had a team-high 12 quarterback pressures.
“It’s a tough one when that opportunity (to turn pro) presents itself,” he said. “You really have to consider it. Having this opportunity to come back and be with my guys again, and to have a chance to get better … Personally, I feel like that was the best thing for me.”
There is the real reason why Ferrell decided to come back.