Clemson University head coach Dabo Swinney sees superstar upside in Canadian receiver Ajou Ajou.
The Brooks, Alberta native flashed that type of potential with a 33-yard catch and run touchdown during the Tigers 73-7 thrashing of Georgia Tech. Ajou took a screen pass and weaved through Yellow Jackets defenders all the way to the end zone.
“O Canada. We have gone international. Ajou Ajou, man I was so happy for him. That was pretty cool to see him take a screen and go 30-something yards just knees and elbows flying all over the field. He was just so relentless to get to the end zone,” Swinney said in a video conference.
“He’s going to be an unbelievable player. He’s this uber talented guy, but he knows that he has so much to learn, and he’s not afraid of that. He’s not embarrassed by that, he’s not too cool for school. He is a very unique guy, really not have had a guy like him. I’ve never really had a guy like Ajou.”
The 18-year-old was the first Canadian to earn a scholarship from Clemson and first Canuck to score a touchdown for the Tigers. He attended the Dabo Swinney Football Camp in the summer of 2019, which was his initial trip to Memorial Stadium. That’s when Swinney really noticed Ajou and all his untapped potential.
“His natural ability is pretty special, it’s unique. His vertical is ridiculous, his length, just off the charts. He’s a work in progress, great to see him have a moment like that because that’s going to do a lot for his confidence,” Swinney said.
“He’s 220 pounds, he can run, you don’t realize how fast he is because he’s so gangly. He’s got incredible ball skills. And he’s had a couple moments in the game. But the game is really, really fast for him right now — really fast in every aspect because there is so much for him to grasp.”
Ajou starred on the football field, basketball court and in track and field for Harry Ainlay Composite High School in Edmonton until he decided to relocate for his senior season at Clearwater Academy International. He finished the 2019 Florida high school season with 39 receptions for 686 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 17.6 yards per reception.
“He’s played a long time in Canada, you watch any of his tape and there’s three feet of snow, he’s out there, he’s tough. He loves football, you gotta love football to play football in three feet of snow and that’s your norm,” Swinney said.
“This kid will be one of the funnest guys that I have a chance to coach. Literally taking this kid that’s got all this talent, and trying to teach him almost a new language. It’s going to be a lot of fun to develop him.”
The six-foot-three, 215-pound true freshman arrived on Clemson’s campus in August and immediately impressed quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence led the Tigers to the College Football Playoff National Championship in 2018. He’s the consensus No. 1 choice for the 2021 NFL draft and Lawrence, just like Swinney, believes Ajou can be an impact-maker.
“He’s a developmental guy, a little patience with him, you just keep pouring water on him and you’re going to look up here in a couple years and everybody is going to know who Ajou is,” Swinney said.
“He’s made a ton of progress since he got here. He’s a guy that will be a big-time factor for us as we continue to move through this season, but certainly the rest of his career. He has that in him.”
Since Swinney arrived at Clemson in 2009, DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams have gone through the program and developed into first-round NFL picks. That’s the level Swinney wants Ajou to reach.