Clemson freshman quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei introduced himself to Tiger nation in a big way last weekend with a stellar debut performance against Boston College. This week, he will lead the Tigers into South Bend to take on the No. 4 team in the nation. Given the way Uiagalelei was thrust into action after Trevor Lawrence’s COVID-19 diagnosis, many Clemson fans haven’t been properly introduced to the youngster. While Uiagalelei has made his abilities on the football field clear in his short time in Clemson, here’s a little background on the young star.
Uiagalelei attended high school at St. John Bosco in Bellflower, CA where he quickly ascended national recruit rankings. As a sophomore, Uiagalelei burst onto the scene as he beat out former starting quarterback Re-al Mitchell who is currently a quarterback at Iowa State five games into the season. In his first game, Uiagalelei led his team back from a 10-point 4th quarter deficit, similar to the 18-point comeback he led in his first game as a Tiger. Uiagalelei even had the chance to star in the Netflix series “QB1” during his sophomore year. In his high school career, Uiagalelei compiled 10,496 passing yards, 127 passing touchdowns, 1,103 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns in less than three full seasons as the team’s starting quarterback. Uiagalelei also led his team to a California division 7A state championship his senior year.
Uiagalelei’s efforts in high school earned him the No. 10 overall player ranked by 247 Sports, including the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the class. At 6’4” 250 pounds, Uiagalelei is certainly ready for the physicality of the college game. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Uiagalelei’s game is his arm strength. Throughout his high school career, videos of Uiagalelei throwing footballs 60, 70 and 80+ yards downfield began populating the internet. While 80-yard throws earn lots of likes and views, it’s the accuracy with which he can deliver those passes that sets Uiagalelei apart. Dabo Swinney recalls that one of the first times he saw Uiagalelei throw in-person at a camp, he was concerned that Uiagalelei was going to hurt the kids he was throwing to. Swinney said per TigerNet, “It was a tough sight to watch, some of those guys trying to catch those balls…He has a gift. Not many people can throw the ball like he can.
Off the football field, Uiagalelei is a communication major at Clemson. He was able to enroll early in the spring of 2020, giving him the opportunity to practice with his new team several months before the season’s beginning. His relationship with his family has been well documented since he first walked on campus. His dad, aka “Big Dave.” somehow manages to make 6’4” 250 pound D.J. look small. At 6’4” 380 pounds, Dave Uiagalelei is a former celebrity bodyguard whose personality may be even bigger than his stature. Big Dave is truly a larger than life figure that can be seen jumping around the bleachers of Death Valley when his son is on the field. D.J. candidly admitted that his dad is so outspoken that D.J. has him blocked on Twitter. Though an outspoken, proud father, Dave has made it clear that, “I’m no Lavar Ball. I’m just grateful and thankful to have a great kid.” While Uiagalelei loves his dad, he has told reporters that he’s more like his mother, Tashua. While still an outgoing person, Tashua is more “low-key” in the words of Uiagalelei.
While it may be hard to believe, a few years from now, it’s likely that Uiagalelei will be the third largest man in his immediate family. Uiagalelei “little” brother Matayo is a 6’ 4” 245 pound defensive end at St. John Bosco. Already a 4-star football prospect for the class of 2023, Matayo was earning Division 1 college scholarships as an eighth grader.
Uiagalelei shocked many when he decided to commit to Clemson, which is some 2,000 miles away from his hometown. Surprisingly Uiagalelei’s favorite childhood team USC, yes the real USC, didn’t focus their recruiting efforts on the Bellflower, CA star. Despite offers from Oregon and other west-coast teams, Uiagalelei was drawn to Clemson because of their recent history with quarterbacks like Tajh Boyd, Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence. If the Boston College game is any indication of what the future holds, Uiagalelei certainly has the ability to be the next generational quarterback to come through Death Valley.
While Tiger fans will cherish their last stretch of games with Trevor Lawrence under center, they can take consolation in the fact that Uiagalelei is ready to run the show once No. 16 heads to the NFL.