Like facing other top prospects and getting good grades in school, Patrick Destefano views the Under Armour All-America Game as just another way to prepare for the next chapter of his life.
The American Family Insurance presents the Under Armour All-America Game selection tour stopped by Spartanburg (S.C.) Dorman to give the Clemson commit his game jersey.
"It's an honor to be a part of this game," Destefano said. "It's big for me and our school."
"Patrick is such a smart kid," Dorman coach David Gutshall said. "He can play anywhere on the line of scrimmage. He's book smart and a student of the game. You sometimes have one or the other and he's both."
Destefano also has the genes. His father, Frank Destefano was a team captain and offensive lineman for Duke.
"The one thing I can say about his play is that he's so intense," Gutshall said. "He's a high motor kid all the time. He plays with a big heart and he can move. Plus, he's strong and has great feet."
Destefano simply doesn't know any other way to play.
"You have to have that mentality. I have to have that mentality," Destefano said. "But I also have so much fun out there. You have to play hard and you have to play physical. That's the only way you can play on the offensive line."
Just like he does on the field, Destefano attacked the recruiting process with a combination of intensity and smarts. During the spring he unofficially visited Duke, Clemson, Penn State, Kentucky, South Carolina, Georgia, Notre Dame and others. Then, in May, after returning from Happy Valley, he made his decision.
"I loved my trip to Penn State," Destefano said. "It was a great visit. But it couldn't top Clemson. No one could top Clemson. I knew that if Penn State didn't do that no one would so I committed to the Tigers.
"Of course all the schools are great and they all have their own unique, great qualities. But Clemson just grew on me like a family. All the players there are the same type of guys. They protect their own and they really are a family. I was really striving to find something like that and I did at Clemson."
Destefano also had the support of his family and his coaches at Dorman.
"My parents always said it was my decision and that they would back me with whatever school I picked," Destefano said. "I love them for that and that really helped me with my decision. In the end, I was thinking about Clemson, Penn State, Stanford and Duke before picking the Tigers."
As anxious as he is to join Clemson, he feels he has some work to do still at Dorman.
"It's the best time to be a Tiger," Destefano said. "They are off to a great start. We here at Dorman have our own set of midseason problems at 3-4. This is where my focus is and we have to turn this around. I take it personally because I feel a little responsible for what has happened."
Destefano is referring to his injury. Earlier this year he sustained a stinger in his shoulder and missed three games. It was painful for Destefano but he wanted to work through it.
"I tried," Destefano said. "But the only way to handle it is to fight through it. That's what I thought but really the only approach is rest for a few weeks. Then I got a cortisone shot and it has become a whole lot better. Now I feel fine."
He's back banging heads and loving being out on the field with his teammates again. He's working on helping Dorman get some wins as well as working on his game to prepare for when he gets to Clemson.
"Hey, I know that there's no part of my game that doesn't need work," Destefano said. "There are going to be 10 other guys there at Clemson all fighting and working hard. Yeah, they will lose four starters but it would be arrogant to think I can go in there and get a job. I will go battle and fight hard and we will let all the cards fall where they may."
The high school to college jump is an extremely tough transition, but with his academic background and playing background Destefano could be ahead of most. He's graduating early and over the past few seasons he has lined up and battled opposing defensive linemen like South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney, Clemson's Kevin Dodd, North Carolina's Brandon Willis, Tennessee's Corey Miller and 2013 standout Jaylen Miller (Gaffney, S.C.). Like taking the college prep courses in school, playing against that type of competition on Fridays and what he will face in the Under Armour All-America Game in January all give Destefano a leg up before he arrives at Clemson.
"I didn't get many breathers and all those guys were really good in their own way," Destefano said. "It certainly helped me and gave me confidence because I played well against them all and we all got really after it. It gives you confidence."
Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.