A Family Affair: “Big” Dave Uaigalelei Talks Raising and Watching “DJ” From Pee Wee- Clemson

Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei(5) hugs his father Dave Uiagalelei after the game with The Citadel Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020 at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.

Clemson Sports News Sits Down With Dave Uiagalelei

By: Zachary Wagner

On Thursday morning, Dave Uiagalelei packed his bags and headed to the airport. The trip from Inland Empire, California to Clemson, South Carolina is becoming a familiar trip for the father of the Tigers second-string quarterback, D.J. Uiagalelei. 

After the six hour plane ride, Uiagalelei pulled into the parking lot at the Abernathy Hotel in downtown Clemson. For the second time in three weeks, Dave will get to watch his son D.J. play inside of Death Valley as the Tigers host the Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday night.

“I love it here and it’s becoming a second home to me” said Uiagalelei when Clemson Sports News caught up with him in the hotel lobby on Thursday night. “This town and school are amazing and I already love my Clemson family”

The father of the #1 overall quarterback recruit in the 2020 class knew his son was going to be a quarterback from a very young age. 

Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei(5) runs six-yards in for a touchdown during the second quarter of the game with The Citadel Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020 at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.

“I knew D.J. was going to be a quarterback since he first picked up a football.” Said Uiagalelei. “We would be in the backyard throwing the, you know, the little nerf football around and D.J. would just be out there slinging that thing.” 

By the time D.J. was in third grade, the California native was playing way above his age level, matching up physically and mentally with sixth and seventh graders.

It didn’t take coaches across the nation long to notice that D.J. was born to be a quarterback either. When D.J. took his 8th grade team to the semifinals of the USC Trojans 8-on-8 high school tournament, USC Head Coach Clay Helton offered Uiagalelei after watching him beat up on varsity cornerbacks and safeties from all around California. 

It didn’t take coaches across the nation long to notice that D.J. was born to be a quarterback either. When D.J. took his 8th grade team to the semifinals of the USC Trojans 8-on-8 high school tournament, USC Head Coach Clay Helton offered Uiagalelei after watching him beat up on varsity cornerbacks and safeties from all around California. 

“Most kids that age who get an offer from a school like that are so excited and ecstatic. My son though, he told me he was hungry and asked if we could go get some food.” Dave Uiagalelei said while cracking an ear-to-ear grin.  

When asked what his favorite thing about his son was on the football field, Uiagalelei told CSN that it was the leadership that the young man possessed.

“D.J’s senior year, his team lost in the early rounds of a 7-on-7 tournament right before the season started. The next week D.J. was supposed to go to the Elite-11 camp, which was always a dream of his, to go to that camp. He told me that after that 7-on-7 loss that he couldn’t miss a week of practice and the team’s first game of the season.” 

Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei(5) throws a ball against The Citadel during the second quarter of the game Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020 at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.

“That’s what I love about my son. His leadership and commitment to his team. He talked about going to the Elite-11 camp since he was a young kid. It was always a dream of his. He knew his team needed him though and they needed to get better before the season started.”

Not only did D.J. play well enough for his team to qualify for the California State Playoffs, he led his team back from a 28-5 deficit in the second half to win the California State Championship Game, defeating Alabama University commit Bryce Young in a game for the ages. 

“Big” Dave and a Pee Wee version of “DJ”

Not only did D.J. play well enough for his team to qualify for the California State Playoffs, he led his team back from a 28-5 deficit in the second half to win the California State Championship Game, defeating Alabama University commit Bryce Young in a game for the ages. 

It was not a surprise for Dave and family when D.J. finally stepped foot on campus last February, as an early enrollee for the Clemson Tigers Football Program. 

“He knew he was coming here as soon as he came to his first camp here. He loved the coaches and knew that he wanted to be a Tiger. Our family has never been about going to the best team or starting right away, I know D.J. wanted a challenge and to learn under Trevor (Lawrence).

When Uiagalelei met with the media following his first appearance in his first collegiate game last month, completing 2-of-3 of his passes against Wake Forest, he compared sitting under Lawrence to Brett Farve and Aaron Rodgers with the Green Bay Packers. 

The trip for Dave Uiagalelei from Inland Empire, California to Clemson to watch his son play college football for the Tigers will become more familiar the next few years, and every time he travels to Tiger Town, we will welcome him with open arms.

One Comment

  • Dave , Welcome to the Clemson Family ! Looking forward to your son leading the Tigers next year.

    Billy , Chas.,SC

    Reply

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