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Clemson’s James Skalski Cannot Wait to Prove NFL Doubters Wrong

Not Being Invited to NFL Scouting Combine Has Placed Another Chip on Linebacker’s Shoulder

CLEMSON, S.C. — Ever since he was in high school, James Skalski has had to prove himself.

Though he was an All-State linebacker and the Region 4-AAAAA Defensive Player of the Year coming out of high school, the Northgate High School standout from Newnan, Georgia was not as highly recruited as some of his peers.

Of course, that fueled Skalski’s desire to prove them all wrong when he chose Clemson over South Carolina and Louisville back in 2016.

“Anything you do when people doubt you, and you prove them wrong, it feels good,” Skalski said following Clemson’s Pro Day at the Poe Indoor Practice Facility on March 17.

He definitely proved the doubters wrong during his Clemson career.

Skalski became an integral piece in Brent Venables' defensive scheme. Before his college career was over, the linebacker became a First-team All-ACC selection, while also earning Third-team All-American honors, as well.

A two-year captain, Skalski had a decorated career at Clemson that spanned over six seasons. He finished with 310 career tackles, including 20 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks. He also broke up 12 passes and returned one of two fumble recoveries for a touchdown.

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His 69 career games are tied for the most in FBS history. He is also the only player to play in and win five ACC Championships in a career.

“I try not to pay attention to all the noise,” Skalski said. “I know the kind of football player I am. I know what I am capable of, and I just try to come out here and show it every day.”

With the 2022 NFL Draft approaching on Aril 28, Skalski is once again having to prove himself. Despite his storied career at Clemson, he did not get an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine in February. The former Tiger admitted that made him mad.

“There was definitely a chip on my shoulder, for sure. I feel like I performed well enough and long enough over a period of time here, where I deserved an invite,” he said.

How motivated was Skalski by being left off the combine invite? Enough that despite having to wear a boot for four weeks following the Cheez-It Bowl, he came out and performed at a high-level during Clemson’s Pro Day.

Skalski checked in at 228 pounds, ran a 4.70 in the 40, posted a 34-inch vertical and did 26 reps on the bench (225 lbs.).

“My foot was hurt, too. So, it is not like I could have gone out (to the combine) and really perform like I wanted, but still, I wanted to be there,” Skalski said. “But hey, it is what it is. I wanted to be a five-star coming out of high school too, but that did happen. So, I mean, that is what I am dealt with so let’s go.”

Skalski is hopeful his performance at Clemson’s Pro Day will earn him a draft pick when the NFL Draft is held in Las Vegas April 28-30. But if not, he is sure to be signed as an undrafted free agent. And you can bet, he is going to do everything in his power to prove those who did not give him a chance wrong.

“I don’t care. Just get me in the door somewhere, and I will prove (the doubters) wrong,” he said.