Clemson feels like home for Florida recruit

Jeremy Styron

Although Florida State University is about five miles from his high school, tight end Sage Ennis chose to move six hours up the road to Tigertown because, to him, Clemson, S.C., feels like a home away from home.

Ennis, who played wide receiver and quarterback early in his high school career before being switched to tight end for his remaining two years, is one of about 20 commits the Clemson Tigers have penciled in for 2020. He gave a verbal commitment to Clemson in June after receiving offers from multiple schools, including FSU and Penn State.

The small town atmosphere was what initially attracted Ennis to Clemson, he said, noting that he visited campus three times between May-July.


“It’s a really nice campus, not just the facilities part, just how it’s around the lakes and how they have all the water,” Ennis said. “... I really like how it’s close and not really spread out. Like some campuses are really big and spread out. From what I saw at least, it seems like it’s really close and more like it’s own community itself.”

Ennis, who was born in Columbus, Ohio, moved with his family to Tennessee and Michigan as a child before settling in Florida in 2006.

As a child, he helped his father with his cattle business. Clemson, with its rural landscapes and agricultural heritage, reminded him of his family's background in farming. 

“I kind of grew up in a real rural area in the country, and that’s basically what Clemson is,” Ennis, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, said. “It’s out in the country, not a very big city. It’s a nice campus, but it’s not going to be like an FSU or something like that, one of your big campuses, so I liked that about it. To me, that’s what made it really feel like home, living in Tallahassee a lot of people were like, ‘Well, how can FSU not feel like home?’”

“I grew in a rural area, and Clemson just really felt like home being out in the country, just seeing the stuff they’ve got there (and being) an agricultural school,” he added. “I just liked the feel of it.”

He said that working on a farm helped to shape his work ethic and character, which translated to football.

“It kind of made me tough,” he said about farm life. “You always had to do something, whether it was picking up a little square bales that weigh a lot more than you when you’re little or trying to herd some cows and sorting them because if you’re not careful, you can get in a bad situation or get kicked, so it kind of brings out some toughness in you. You’ve got to be hard-nosed because if you mess up when you’re sorting them, you’re definitely going to get yelled at.”

“So that translates to coaching. You’re definitely going to get yelled at on the field. After that, it’s how you take it. Are you going to sit there and be in pity or are you going to go to the next play and move on and be better about it?”

He said that as a boy, he would often catch Clemson-FSU games because of the Tigers' rivalry with the Seminoles.

“Growing up I was an FSU fan, and so I watched FSU a lot,” he said. “I knew about Clemson, and then coming to high school, FSU was like the school I wanted to go to.”

Ennis played for Graceville High School as a freshman and sophomore and then moved to Lincoln High School in Tallahassee for his junior and senior years. 

He received multiple offers during the recruitment process but eventually caught the attention of Tigers defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who began following him on Twitter. Ennis sent Venables some promotional videos of his work on the field, and his relationship with Clemson blossomed.

Ennis said he was impressed with tight ends coach Danny Pearman, head coach Dabo Swinney and other members of the staff.

Pearman had a “stern” demeanor at first, but when the player and coach had the opportunity to talk more during one of the visits earlier this year, Ennis got to see Pearman’s true personality and his love of the game.

“The more the day went on, we got to talk more (and) I got to see his personality and how passionate he is about football, not just football but for the players,” Ennis said. “He really does care about all his players, not just the tight ends but all the players as a whole. He wants the best out of them on the football field, but he wants the best out of them in life too for them to be successful.”

He called Swinney a “real down-to-earth” and "humble" person who is interested in the betterment of his players on and off the football field.

“He’s not a business type of guy,” Ennis said. “Obviously, it’s somewhat of a business, and at the end of the day, everyone wants to be successful, but he’s one of those guys 10 years later, he’s definitely going to still be there in your life trying to help you and do what he can. You can tell he really cares, and he really brings the family into the program.”

If Clemson has had one deficiency on offense since Jordan Leggett graduated a few years ago, it has been at the tight end position, so an efficient pass blocker and catcher in the middle of the field will most likely be a welcome addition to the roster.

Ennis said he thinks he is up for whatever challenges lay ahead.

“They demand excellence, and that’s what they’re going to get,” Ennis said. “... Dad, he liked everything perfect and growing up on the farm, everything had to be pretty good and close to perfect, so I’ve just been kind of used to that. At Clemson, there will be challenges for me, but I think I’ll be able to handle the challenges."