Legendary former Clemson coach Danny Ford warmly exchanged pleasantries Wednesday in the West End Zone facility with junior defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, reminiscing about having had the player and his father over to his home years ago.
“Time does fly,” Ford said, noting he had a difficult time believing Jarrett was already so far along in his collegiate career. Several minutes later, Jarrett let Ford and everybody else know he's returning for his senior season.
The 6-foot-1, 295-pounder acknowledged Wednesday that he isn't even going to bother with filing paperwork to request an NFL draft grade from league personnel. The 20-year-old has the wisdom of two former NFL players to draw on — his biological father Jessie Tuggle, who was an NFL linebacker, as well as retired NFL star linebacker and unofficial “uncle” Ray Lewis.
“I thought about it (sending in the paperwork), but I came to the conclusion I knew I was coming back for my senior year,” Jarrett said. “I was thinking about sending it in just to get a grade, but I just felt when it comes down to it I'm one of those players who just needs an opportunity when it's time for me to leave and I feel like I'll make it (at the next level).
“It was the same thing coming in here as a freshman when I wasn't a really highly recruited guy, but I always believed in myself that I would be where I'm at today. So it's just self-belief and I really don't need the opinion of the scouts if I know that I'm not going to leave right now, even though I thought about it.”
Jarrett is third on the team with 77 tackles (30 more than any other lineman), including third with 10 for loss. He was a borderline prospect to be among the program's underclassmen who could choose to forgo their senior seasons.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has maintained that all the juniors with the exception of star receiver Sammy Watkins (projected as a top-15 selection) should come back for their final seasons. Defensive end Vic Beasley, currently looking no worse than a second-rounder, and immensely-gifted receiver Martavis Bryant (whose stock should rise considerably at the NFL Combine) are the most likely suspects to leave. Linebacker Stephone Anthony and cornerback Bashaud Breeland also have decisions to make.