Family. It's a word heard over and over from players inside the Clemson program.
It's a word that takes on a different kind of meaning at Clemson. It's something that is ingrained into the culture inside the program and it starts at the very top with head coach Dabo Swinney.
On Sunday, the Tigers picked up a commitment from in-state offensive lineman and preferred walk-on Mason Johnstone. Being a part of the Clemson family was something that was just too much to pass up for the local product from Christ Church High School in Greenville.
"I received my PWO offer February 21st this year," Johnstone told All Clemson. "I was watching tv when I got face-timed by a random phone number and for some reason felt an impulse to answer. To my surprise, it was Coach Swinney in his office with a huge smile. We chatted for a little while and he told me that he’d love for me to be a part of the Clemson family and offered me."
Johnstone recently picked up an offer from BYU and was also getting interest from Nebraska, Penn State, South Carolina, App State, VT, Duke, Colorado State and Wake Forest among others.
The 6-foot-7, 255-pound offensive linemen said that getting the offer was a dream come true, that he can't wait to represent the school he grew up rooting for and that being a local kid makes it mean that much more.
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"My initial reaction was just overwhelming joy and relief," he said. "My dreams and goals of the opportunity to represent Clemson had finally been achieved. I’ve seen the impact that Clemson football has had on this town and what it means to the people who are a part of it all my life."
"This town lives for Saturdays in Death Valley. Knowing that I’ll be running down the hill in front of the town that raised me is surreal in its own sense, but knowing that I’ll be playing for the best program in the country is a blessing. This decision was easy for me. Being a part of the best program in the country was not something I could ever consider passing up."
Johnstone admittedly still has a lot to learn considering he's likely to move outside, but the coaching staff loves his potential, particularly the athleticism he brings to the table for a player his size.
"The coaches love my combination of size and athleticism," Johnstone said. "I still have a ton to learn about the game but the coaches feel like I have all the tools to succeed and be a force at offensive tackle despite having not played the position in my career yet. Above all, the coaches know that they’re getting a teammate dedicated to elevating my teammates and an athlete with an intense passion for the game."
The offensive lineman said the Tigers are getting a player who will always put team goals ahead of his own and one who will bring the kind of attitude that should make for a perfect cultural fit.
"Clemson is getting a football player whose sole purpose will be to elevate my teammates and win ball games. Fortunately, I've been coached by incredible people who have taught me how to lead the right way, which is exactly what I intend to do. I love everything about this program and university and will do anything to make its fans proud."