Ajou Ajou, Clemson’s first-ever international signee who hails from Canada, is enjoying life as a Clemson Tiger after enrolling at the school this summer.
“It’s crazy, for sure,” Ajou said Monday, reflecting on his experience at Clemson to this point. “Coming from Brooks, I’m just super thankful. Can’t really ask for much more than this.”
Ajou, a freshman wide receiver, was born in Calgary – a city in Alberta, Canada – before moving to Brooks, Alberta, when he was younger. He then made the transition to the United States in 2019, playing his senior season of high school football at Clearwater (Fla.) Academy, where he learned a lot about American football.
“I moved to Florida last year, Feb. 28, and it was great,” Ajou said. “It taught me a lot. Just meeting new people, finally playing American football – you don’t get a 10-yard head start. But yeah, it was awesome.”
Ajou saw his recruitment skyrocket while at Clearwater Academy and ultimately had nearly 30 scholarship offers to choose from.
But once Dabo Swinney extended an offer to him at one of Clemson’s high school football camps in June 2019, Ajou knew without a doubt that he wanted to be a Tiger.
“The moment he offered me, I wanted to say, ‘Yeah, I’m committed,’” Ajou recalled. “But he’s the one who said, ‘I don’t want you to commit now. I want you to go look at your options. You’re still new to this.’ But I already knew. I definitely already knew that I was coming here.”
Although Swinney persuaded Ajou from committing to the Tigers on the spot, it was just one month later in late July 2019 when Ajou made the final decision to continue his academic and athletic career at Clemson.
Clemson reminded Ajou of where he came from, and that was one of the biggest reasons he chose the school, along with the football program’s coaching staff and the people that comprise the small city.
“When you’re driving into Clemson… We took the back road, so it was just like country and farms. It was like wow, it’s looking kind of like Brooks, my hometown, and I was like ‘Woah,’” Ajou said. “I heard the population here is 14,000, and Brooks’ population is 14,000. You really can’t make this up. I was just connecting the dots, really.
“And then on top of that, I came here, and everyone’s nice. Everyone just wants to see you grow and win, and it’s kind of like Brooks in a sense because it takes a village to raise a child. But just the coaches and stuff, the way they help me and make sure I’m good in anything, I just love that.”
Things have worked out pretty well for Ajou at Clemson thus far. The outstanding 6-foot-3, 215-pound athlete, who set a provincial high jump record in Canada, scored his first career touchdown on a 35-yard catch-and-run in his fifth career collegiate game at Georgia Tech on Oct. 17.
“They call the play, and I’m like ‘Oh, this is coming to me,’” Ajou said. “So, I’m like ‘OK, be ready.’ So I go, boom, I catch the ball and I look and I’m like ‘Oh man, this is really happening.’ I just got so much adrenaline in me, and it’s like tunnel vision just getting to the end zone, really. I was just hitting my moves and I started running and I finally get there, and I just hear the crowd erupt and I’m like ‘No way this just happened.’ Like, I’ve been wanting this to happen my entire life, and it was just blurry. I was speechless until I sat down on the bench. I had nothing to say, I was just like screaming. I went to the bench and my teammates were going crazy. It was awesome.”
Even though he has had some success early on in college, Ajou knows he still has plenty to learn, having only played two seasons of high school football – one in Canada and one in the U.S.
“There’s definitely still a lot to learn for me,” he said. “The biggest thing for me was just the competition because Clemson’s the best and you compete against the best every day. So, going one-on-ones, getting off the press, I’ve really got to work on that. Just playing faster, full speed all the time, staying low because I’m such a tall guy… I’ve got to work on those things. But Dabo definitely sees way more that I’ve got to work on.”
So far, Clemson has been everything Ajou hoped it would be, even if not expected.
“It’s definitely what I hoped would happen,” he said. “I can’t really say I expected this, but I’ve always wanted this to happen, and it’s really amazing. … This place is really great.”
The Clemson Insider traveled to Clearwater Academy as part of our “Tour of Champions” to see Ajou when he was a recruit. You can check out our content from that visit below: