- Erik McKinney, ESPN Staff Writer
The Clemson Tigers added another big piece to their defensive line Tuesday as ESPN 300 four-star defensive tackle Scott Pagano (Honolulu/Moanalua) committed to head coach Dabo Swinney. Pagano joins No. 1 overall player Robert Nkemdiche (Loganville, Ga./Grayson) and No. 6 defensive end Elijah Daniel (Avon, Ind./Avon) in the Tigers’ class.
It was something of a surprise announcement, as Pagano wasn’t truly considering Clemson until late last week. He, along with his mother and sister, took an eight-day trip to visit four schools in the Southeast, though Pagano was ready to cut one of the school visits.
“It was just fate,” Pagano said. “To be honest, I didn’t even want to visit Clemson. But when I went there, it was just so awesome. The players and the coaches are down to earth and it felt so right to be there.”
Pagano, who totaled 67 tackles and 2.5 sacks as a junior, said the time he was able to spend with the academic advisors at Clemson also helped shape his decision.
When the University of Hawaii was eliminated as a potential destination for Pagano, it became likely that he would be moving away from his family for college. That turned out not to be the case. Pagano has family in South Carolina, and because of that he was able to visit Clemson for three days -- Friday, Saturday and Sunday -- while spending time with his family. It was the sense of extended family among the Tigers that made the decision clear for the big lineman.
“It’s a big, big family there,” Pagano said. “Coach Swinney and my high school coach are so similar with each other. They are high on team bonding and being close as a group. It felt so right there. He is very awesome to talk to. It was an awesome time.”
Pagano’s mother said the atmosphere at Clemson was perfect and the family was very happy with the decision. That played a big role for Pagano as well, as he credits his mother for getting him to where he is now.
“I have to give a big thank you to my mom,” he said. “Without her, this would never have happened. She probably slept eight hours on the whole trip. I thank her for everything she’s done for me.”
Pagano was recruited by some of the nation’s elite college football programs, including Alabama, Arkansas, Boise State, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and USC. But none of those schools will have a shot at the nation’s No. 263 recruit, as his recruiting process is complete. He will take only one official visits -- to Clemson -- and doesn’t plan to speak with any other coaches.
“I’m so, so excited,” he said of committing. “I could do cartwheels. This is a big, big relief. Now I have to move forward and keep working hard. I’m all in to Clemson.”