Growing up watching college football Dylan Sumner-Gardner had visions of rubbing Howard's rock for good luck, and wearing the white paw on the bright orange helmet. Clemson was his place.
So as Sumner-Gardner began to see college coaches watching him in workouts as a sophomore and word began to spread that he was a burgeoning football prospect he made a decision. His decision was to get himself in shape for Clemson's football summer camp and earn the scholarship he really wanted.
How bad did he want it? Bad enough to catch a bus and ride 26 hours one way just to reach Clemson's campus. And once he arrived the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Mesquite (Texas) West Mesquite safety did not disappoint. It did not take long for the offer to be extended and for Sumner-Gardner to accept.
There is no doubt Clemson is a special place for Dylan Sumner-Gardner, which made his Thursday night decision to decommit from the Tigers that much more difficult.
"It was hard because my heart was like you can't decommit that's your dream school, but my mind as a growing young man was like you have to do what's best for you and you don't want to make anyone look bad," Sumner-Gardner said. "So it's what I did."
He talked to Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and defensive coordinator Brent Venables, and while it was not easy he knew what he had to do.
"I just talked to coach Swinney not too long ago because he told me his definition of commitment and we just talked about being committed and looking at other schools," Sumner-Gardner said. "He said some things and I understood where he was coming from so I did what I thought was best for me. I have the utmost respect for coach Swinney. Coach Swinney is a great coach and a great person but I just wanted to be a man of my word about being committed. I was committed but I was looking at other schools and that's not the true meaning of being committed."
So where does he go from here?
He has no shortage of options. Offers have rolled in from Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Auburn, and Ole Miss, and just today Nebraska decided to throw their hat in the ring. As the offers mount he feels more and more blessed as well as humbled.
"It's been good knowing I have something to my name and knowing that I have something for the young guys on my team to look up to," Sumner-Gardner said. "Me and Chason (Virgil) getting offers is making our team work even harder because everyone wants to go to school, so everyone works hard to be like us."
College visits are on the horizon for the West Mesquite standout. This weekend he plans to attend Baylor's junior day and the next weekend he will be at the University of Texas for theirs. This past weekend he was in College Station for Texas A&M's junior day.
"When I was at Texas A&M it just made me feel like I was at home," Sumner-Gardner said. "It was a real good atmosphere down there. Coach Sumlin is a real cool guy and coach Yates and coach Beatty. It was a good place to be at. I felt at home."
For now though he is taking everything in and wants to be patient with the process. He has no timetable and wants to look over his options before naming a list of top schools. However, he did mention the Tigers were definitely in the fight.
"Clemson is still in the mix," Sumner-Gardner said. "Clemson is my favorite school and will always be my favorite school. They're still at the top of my list."