Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney kept insisting that troubled NFL prospect cornerback Derion Kendrick was not in the dog house.
He was in the love shack, Swinney said, a place where shelter is discipline.
Well, now Kendrick is in the Dawg house.
There was apparently no more vacancy in the shack and he was evicted before the start of spring practice. He has found a new home, however. After multiple reports, beginning with 247 Sports, Kendrick announced late Tuesday on Instagram that he was headed to Georgia.
That sure puts a new twist on the Sept. 4 season-opening game between expected top-five teams Clemson and Georgia in Charlotte on prime-time national TV, doesn’t it?
“To my brothers at Clemson, the coaches that supported me, and to my fans, I appreciate you for not giving up on me,” Kendrick wrote. “There are times in life when changes become necessary for one to grow, some people have to walk out of your life for others to walk in!!!” With that being said and without further hesitation, I’m announcing my commitment to the University of Georgia.”
Things just didn’t work out for Kendrick in Clemson, and even those close to the situation would have different explanations. He is a top-shelf talent, to be sure, a five-star recruit — originally as a wide receiver — and all-ACC as a defensive back for his first two years on that side of the ball. Despite being occasionally benched last season and playing just nine games, he had a team-high six pass breakups, an interception and a 60-yard touchdown on a fumble return. Kendrick didn’t play in the home finale and there was little explanation except that he was not injured.
“Sometimes people say you’re in the dog house. I like to say he’s in the love shack,” Swinney said after the game. “Just a little team discipline with him. DK is actually one of my favorites. The Bible says that the greatest form of discipline is love. So, we just put him in the love shack this weekend and, hopefully, he’ll respond the right way.”
Two months after the Sugar Bowl loss to Ohio State in the national semifinal, however, it was announced that Kendrick was off Clemson’s team. Less than two weeks after that, he was arrested in his hometown of Rock Hill and charged with unlawful carrying of a handgun.
Kendrick, who could’ve declared for the NFL draft, felt his stock fall so far after his dismissal and arrest that he decided to enter the transfer portal and find a new place to prove himself again.
He remained quiet as ugly pictures of him were being painted with broad brushes. But a few weeks ago, he went on a YouTube video for the podcast “On Campus with JB and Sciggy” with a couple of friends from Rock Hill. Kendrick admitted he was often absent for mandatory workouts and didn’t much help the dissolving relationships at Clemson.
“I had a lot going on, not even just in school but in my life,” Kendrick said on the podcast. “I wasn’t able to do the stuff that they wanted me to do.”
Kendrick, 20, is the father of a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old.
“Family is going to come before anything,” he said. “My son had some problems going on. I wasn’t really at school. … I was with him. I wasn’t really doing work. I couldn’t really do work because I was always in the hospital, going to the hospital back and forth.
“Certain people understand that. Certain people don’t. On my part, I didn’t have that much communication. I was just like, ‘I gotta be there,’ so that’s where the misunderstanding went. But there’s gotta to be some understanding somewhere. Everybody’s got their problems.
“… Communication is something I have to work on.”
Kendrick didn’t throw any hate back on the coach who said he was trying to show tough love. Quite the opposite, in fact.
“I give thanks to Dabo for believing in me while I was there,” he said. “He was always on me, trying to get me better. I could do better in everything, whether it was on the field or off the field. You’ve gotta play with people like that. You’ve gotta play for people like that. That’s why I play with so much passion.”
Kendrick needed a school and a team that would give him another chance. There was perhaps no better landing spot than Georgia, which could map out a path to a national championship with a win against Clemson. And maybe, just maybe, Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart was as interested in helping a young man regain control of his life and future for his family as gaining an incredible talent with inside information about the Tigers.
The question remains, though. Would Swinney have let such a player go if he knew how it would turn out?
There’s only so much room in the love shack.