NEW ORLEANS – A little motivation from Todd Bates is all it took for five-star defensive tackle Demonte Capehart to get right in the classroom.
Capehart, who signed with Clemson on Dec. 18, was struggling from an academic standpoint when he was a rising high school freshman.
Bates, the Tigers’ defensive tackles coach, could see Capehart’s potential, on and off the field. So, he gave Capehart a wake-up call and made him realize that without sufficient grades, he would not be able to play football at the college level.
“I love Demonte,” Bates told The Clemson Insider on Saturday during the Tigers’ media day for the national title game. “I always tell the story about how our relationship started. He came to camp over his eighth-grade summer going into his ninth-grade year, and he wasn’t doing too well academically. But he had the tools. He had the raw ability and skill. You can see it, it’s right there. He’s a great kid.
“So, I told him — everybody’s starting to offer him at this point in time, and we don’t offer that young — so I tell him, I said, ‘Man, look a here. If you are able to get your grades up, and that’s my challenge to you, as soon as we can offer you, we will.’ I said, ‘But we can’t right now. You’re not able to accept it.’ I said, ‘You can’t accept anything anybody’s offered you right now.’ I said, ‘You really need to look at that and get serious about your work in the classroom.’”
From that point on, Capehart buckled down and took care of business academically.
“That challenge that day, it meant the world because he never made a below a B the rest of his time,” Bates said. “He showed me his report card every time, and man, it was just amazing to see.”
Now, Capehart is on Clemson’s campus as a mid-year enrollee, having moved in last Sunday.
Capehart played three years at Hartsville (S.C.) High School before transferring to IMG Academy for his senior year, when he started all 10 games and tallied 44 total tackles, including 35 first hits, while leading the team with 16 tackles for loss and tying for the team lead in sacks with 5.5.
Capehart was able to practice with the Tigers for two days in Clemson before the team headed to New Orleans for Monday’s national championship game against LSU.
“He’s looked really good as well, working with him those two days,” Bates said. “Really powerful, weighs about 310, still athletic at 310. You shouldn’t be able to move that way at 310 the way he can. Just looking forward to getting to polish him and work with him as well.”