Scholarship ‘a dream come true’ for Tigers’ Groomes
By Eric Sprott
SAN JOSE, Calif. — With the spring semester right around the corner, Clemson wide receiver Carter Groomes had found himself doing a lot of praying lately.
And no, it had nothing to do with the No. 2 Tigers (14-0) taking on top-ranked Alabama (14-0) in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game on Monday (8 p.m., ESPN) at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
It had a lot more to do with finances, as the former Daniel High School standout was staring down the prospect of footing the bill for both his tuition — complete with taking out student loans — and rent for the first time since entering college.
“This past month, I was just praying to find a part-time job for this semester and summer,” Groomes said Saturday at the Tigers’ media day at the SAP Center in San Jose. “But, God always finds a way.”
On Tuesday, Groomes’ prayers were answered when Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney announced to the team during practice that Groomes — along with fellow walk-ons Austin Jackson and Regan Upshaw — had been placed on scholarship through the summer.
The possibility exists Groomes can stay on scholarship even longer if he continues to perform well, but for now, the 5-8, 185-pound redshirt sophomore is simply counting his blessings.
“I was in awe, and I was speechless when he said it,” Groomes said of the moment when Swinney announced the news to the team. “It’s a moment you’ve dreamed of, but you never think it’s going to happen. He definitely did it at a moment where I wasn’t expecting it.”
As a scout-team wide receiver, Groomes’ game action has been limited. This season, he’s played 30 snaps over five games, which included a season-best nine against Louisville on Nov. 3 and four in the Tigers’ 30-3 Cotton Bowl win over Notre Dame last Saturday in Arlington, Texas.
He has just one career reception — a 7-yard grab during the Tigers’ season-opening win over Kent State last season — but his efforts certainly haven’t gone unnoticed by Clemson co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Jeff Scott.
“He’s a hard worker who’s done a great job,” Scott said of Groomes. “Every day, whatever you ask him to do, he goes and attacks the scout-team reps just like our starters do over there with the varsity. He has a great attitude and will do whatever it takes, and it’s very difficult when you’re working that hard and you don’t get opportunities to play in games to come every day with that attitude that you want to get better.
“We talk all the time about earning it, and he definitely earned that scholarship, and his teammates were very happy and excited for him.”
During his time at Daniel, Groomes — whose brother, Christian, was a place-kicker at both Daniel and Clemson — was a standout receiver, leading the area in receiving yards (603) and receiving touchdowns (10) as a senior in 2015 on the way to earning all-region honors.
And he has no shortage of fellow Daniel alums in the Tigers’ wide receiver corps, as Max May, Drew Swinney and Will Swinney also dot the Clemson roster. Add in current Daniel senior Hampton Earle — a Shrine Bowl selection who has said he intends to accept a preferred walk-on offer to join the Tigers — and Clemson will have five former Daniel receivers next season.
“We have a little farm system over there at Daniel, that’s for sure,” Scott said with a laugh.
While it’s a longshot that Groomes will find his way into rotation at receiver for the Tigers, he’s hoping to make more of a special-teams impact moving forward. Specifically, he’s looking to join either the kickoff or punt-return team, filling a void soon to be left by fellow Daniel alum Kyle Cote.
“We have similar body types, and I’d love to do either,” Groomes said.
Whatever he ends up doing, Groomes intends to keep working hard, saying he’s strongly driven and is nowhere near satisfied with where he’s at.
“You dream of this, of coming in here your freshman year, and you see guys like (former Daniel standout) Adrien Dunn and Kyle Cote come in and earn scholarships after two years,” Groomes said. “You want to work so hard just to try to earn that scholarship, too, even for a semester and a summer, and that’s what I did. It was definitely a grind with highs and lows, but all the hard work paid off.
“(God) just blessed me with this opportunity for a scholarship. I’m definitely going to take full advantage of it.”
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