Editor’s note: Nebraska football commit Brendan “Bookie” Radley-Hiles, the Huskers’ top-ranked 2018 recruit, will contribute a weekly first-person story to Land of 10. Here is the fourth installment, as told to beat writer Erin Sorensen.
It’s been quite the week for my IMG teammates and me. As Hurricane Irma began to threaten Florida, we were forced to cancel our game with St. Frances last Friday. Since then, many of us have fled the state.
Everybody at IMG is good. Some guys even stayed in Bradenton, Fla., while others went home or further up north. While everyone is OK, we got hit pretty hard in South Florida. All I ask is that people keep those in Florida in their thoughts and prayers, especially those in deep southern Florida, like Miami or the Florida Keys.
I’m currently chilling in Atlanta as we speak. In fact, I got to Atlanta last Wednesday. I originally left for Tampa on Tuesday, got to Atlanta on Wednesday and stayed there until I left for Clemson on Friday. And after a weekend in Clemson, S.C., I’m now back in Atlanta.
Everything that has happened in the last week has happened so fast. After getting to Atlanta, my little brother and I started thinking about what schools were nearby and if we should take a visit. He mentioned Georgia, Tennessee and a couple of others before we decided on Clemson.
What prompted that decision to take an unofficial visit was my IMG teammates (and current Clemson commits) Mike Jones Jr. and Xavier Thomas. I found out both were going to be at the Clemson game, and since it was only about an hour and 45 minutes from where I was in Atlanta, we figured we should go. My brother and niece came with me.
While at Clemson, we got an academic tour, got to see the new facilities and enjoyed the game against Auburn. I had visited Clemson before with my team on a college tour, but this was my first solo visit.
I would say my biggest takeaway from the weekend was how cool of a guy coach Dabo Swinney is, as well as defensive coordinator Brent Venables, cornerbacks coach Mike Reed, defensive line coach Todd Bates, and all of the coaches who were around. They are all cool and genuine in their own way, and they really have a family feel. They embrace each other like they’re brothers, and treat the players like they’re their younger brothers.
It’s also so family-oriented at Clemson. Coach Swinney has two kids on the team, and his younger sons are the little ball boys on the side of the field running around. The president of the school has a son on staff as a graduate assistant. Coach Venables’ son is committed in my class to play linebacker at Clemson. Coach Bates actually went to Clemson and met his wife there. Coach Reed also met his wife there.
Everything is so family-connected. Everywhere you look, everyone is somehow related. Including graduate assistants, I believe they have 11 or 13 people who have family connections on staff. It’s always some type of family connection for Clemson’s staff and roster. I thought that was cool.
I also had about a 45-minute conversation with Coach Swinney. We talked about who I am as a person versus me as a football player, and also discussed my family background and who I am and what I stand for. His pitch to me was that I’m not a normal recruit at a game. He wanted me to envision myself on the field.
And I know people might read this and wonder what it says about my commitment, or my recruiting process in general. I always hate to speak like this but it really is my life. I hate to say that. I don’t want to sound like I’m ungrateful or arrogant.
This college decision will affect me and be what I represent for the rest of my life. My future self and my future family depend on this decision that I’m making at 18 years old. I want to make sure when I look back, I can say that I went to Nebraska, Clemson, Florida, Alabama, or wherever I end up, and I got a degree and that it got me and my family where we are then. I want to be sure I have an education and a degree that stands for more than just football.
There will be more visits, both official and unofficial. And I’ll continue to evaluate each one fairly. I’m just grateful for the support I’m receiving along the way, because I know this is a big decision not only for me but also my future family.
I don’t take that lightly.
Miss a week of Bookie’s senior season diary? Catch up here.