TAMPA — Jayson Roberts was the football coach at Tampa Bay Tech for only a couple months when he got a phone call from the school’s front office. There was a parent waiting to see him.
Roberts rushed down to the office to find Celia Thompson and her son, Deon Cain. Thompson had just one thing to tell Cain's future coach.
“My son is an incoming ninth grader at Tampa Bay Tech,” Roberts recalled her saying, “and I just wanted to let you know he’s going to be your starting quarterback.”
Less than two years later, Cain was. And Friday, before a crowd at the very school his mother knew he was destined to lead, the 2015 athlete committed to play football at Clemson.
Cain, a four-star recruit who has been the starting quarterback at Tampa Bay Tech for the past two seasons, has been largely recruited as a wide receiver. Before Friday, he had narrowed his choices to Clemson, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and LSU.
Thompson said she’s always been confident about her son’s future in football. That certainty, she said, started with Cain when he was just 8 years old.
“’He just came to me and he said, ‘Momma, I’m going to play for the Chargers,’ ” said Thompson, dressed in bright orange. “Ever since then, he’s played football, he’s advanced. I’ve never doubted his dream.”
Last season, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound quarterback threw for 1,853 yards and 13 touchdowns, leading the Titans to a 6-4 finish. Cain will compete in the 2015 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, joining Plant offensive tackle Jake Fruhmorgen, who has also committed to Clemson.
Roberts said he knew Cain had potential to play at the next level after he quarterbacked the Titans as a sophomore — a season in which he threw for 1,627 yards and 10 touchdowns — only to return the next year and do even more to help the team.
“There were some games where we were biting our fingernails, and then you’d see him mature from that season to his junior season, being a confident leader,” Roberts said. “We always knew the athleticism was there, but once he got the confidence to go with it …we knew the sky was the limit for him.”
Cain took an unofficial visit to Clemson in March, during which the rising senior said he fell in love with the campus and felt right at home. Combine that with the Tigers’ track record of taking Florida athletes like running back C.J. Spiller and wide receiver Sammy Watkins and turning them into NFL players, and Cain had no doubt in his mind where he wanted to go.
Cain, who called Clemson coach Dabo Swinney to make it official just 30 minutes before his 3 p.m. commitment ceremony, just couldn’t keep it a secret any longer.
“It was kind of hard to keep it in,” he said. “So I was like, ‘Man, I’m not going to keep it in, because I know where I want to go. I might as well let the whole world know.’ ”
Kelly Parsons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @_kellyparsons.