Tampa Bay Tech coach Jayson Roberts recalls being taken aback by the request. In nearly a decade as Titans coach, hundreds of recruiters have found their way each spring to his east Tampa campus.
But these guys wanted directions to his cafeteria. In their indefatigable request to land Titans four-star prospect Deon Cain, Clemson assistants Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott asked Roberts if they could sit in on his team’s pregame meal before its 2014 spring jamboree.
“They both just said, ‘We want to be visible, we want him to see that right now we could be anywhere, we could be at any school looking at anybody, evaluating anybody in the country,’” Roberts recalled.
“’But instead we’re sitting in you guys’ cafeteria watching his pregame meal just to kind of drive home how important of a recruit he is to us.’
“That was something that was unique that I had never seen before.”
Cain, of course, signed with the Tigers, evolving into a third-team all-ACC receiver and vital member of Clemson’s 2016 national title team. Today, he plays for the Steelers.
And one of the guys who waited him out in the lunchroom is USF’s new coach.
"Jeff and the whole Clemson staff are at the top when it comes to being organized, staying true to their word and caring for the players and their family," veteran East Lake coach Bob Hudson said.
Such praise was prevalent across the local high school landscape Monday as news of Scott’s hiring spread. From a recruiting perspective, his transition from Tiger to Bull should be seamless.
Elliott, who has shared the offensive coordinator tag with Scott since 2015, is Clemson’s primary bay area recruiter. Still, Scott’s fingerprints cover the region. As receivers coach, he has helped the Tigers land Cain and fellow locals Ray-Ray McCloud (Sickles) and Artavis Scott (East Lake).
Farther south, he helped recruit Fort Myers’ Sammy Watkins, who evolved into a two-time All-American and first-round NFL draftee.
“Jeff is a solid guy,” said Ahmad Jackson, whose nephew, former East Lake standout George Campbell, was recruited by Scott five years ago before ultimately deciding on Florida State.
"Everyone from that Clemson staff was great. With Jeff, it was always faith, family and football."
Roberts, who assisted Scott at a Clemson camp one year, recalls being overwhelmed by Scott’s attention to detail during Cain’s unofficial visit to the Tigers campus.
During that visit, Scott laid out the number of Clemson receivers drafted compared to other programs also heavily recruiting Cain.
“And Clemson far and away had more,” Roberts recalled.
“(Scott) was like, ‘When you ask ’em about that, they’ll say we haven’t had a guy like you.’ But that’s not true because (Scott) broke it down. He was like, ‘There’s the number of four-star and five-star receivers they’ve had, here’s the number we’ve had. We’ve just done a better job of developing them.’
“It was done. On the way back home, (Cain) knew where he was going.”
As of today, that meticulousness, perseverance and personal touch are being used for the Bulls’ benefit.
“From my own experience with him and from my guys who have played at Clemson, Coach Scott is an outstanding coach and even better person,” said Plant coach Robert Weiner, who has watched two of his linemen sign with Clemson in the last five seasons.
“And with his long football background and his Clemson influence, he will bring great spirit, character and expertise to the program and the community.”