Valdosta Daily Times

December 24, 2012

No. 9: Signing day drama for Josh Harvey-Clemons

Ed Hooper
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Josh Harvey-Clemons turned a lot of heads with his play on the football field for the Lowndes Vikings, eventually earning the honor of high school All-American.

But on Feb. 1, national signing day, Harvey-Clemons made headlines because of a signature, not his ability to play football.

With the entire nation watching live on ESPNU, Harvey-Clemons, the state of Georgia’s top uncommitted football prospect, announced he would be attending the University of Georgia on a football scholarship.

At first, the moment looked joyous for Harvey-Clemons and his family, including sister Ashley who revealed his school of choice by removing her Brooks County sweatshirt to reveal a UGA T-shirt.

Then, several hours after the crowded gymnasium was back to normal and the television cameras had departed Lowndes’ campus, it was learned that not everyone in the Clemons family was happy with the senior’s decision to attend UGA. That included grandfather Woodrow Clemons.

Clemons refused to sign Harvey-Clemons’ national letter of intent, which requires a guardian’s signature in order to be submitted. Woodrow Clemons had hoped that Josh would have chosen a school closer to Valdosta, like the University of Florida, which is about half the travel distance than Georgia’s campus in Athens.

So, Instead of sending the national letter of intent from Lowndes the morning of national signing day, Clemons took the letter home, sending media throughout the country into a signing day frenzy.

The following morning, though, Harvey-Clemons finally received the blessing from his grandfather and his national letter of intent was submitted to the Georgia athletic department.

Regardless, Harvey-Clemons’ family ordeal surrounding his signing day decision made headlines across the southeast and across the nation. The morning after signing day, the morning that his letter of intent was faxed to UGA, Harvey-Clemons’ story made headlines in newspapers from The Valdosta Daily Times to the Washington Post. He was also the topic of debate on several national ESPN programs.

Luckily for Harvey-Clemons, all the extra attention and phone calls from media members eventually slowed down once his letter was faxed to UGA, some 22 1/2 hours after it was expected to arrive.

Harvey-Clemons’ announcement Feb. 1 was delayed for several minutes while he waited for a family member to bring a Florida Gators hat to the table. When the time was right, he turned the attention over to his sister Ashley, who unveiled a red Georgia T-shirt from underneath her Brooks County sweatshirt.

Clemons followed up his sister’s unveiling by placing the red Georgia ‘G’ hat onto his head. It was a decision that he kept quiet, a likely reason his grandfather was shocked he had chosen Georgia.

“She was probably the only one I told,” Harvey-Clemons said. “So, she already knew and she kept asking, ‘Do I need to go get the shirt?’ So I told her, ‘Yeah, just get the shirt.’”

Although it was a decision he kept quiet, Harvey-Clemons admitted he knew he was going to attend Georgia following his official visit to the school last September.

“The other schools, all were great. All the visits I went on went good and I built relationships with the coaches, but when I left Georgia, I just knew that is where I wanted to be,” he said. “I knew that is where I wanted to play at for the next four years.”

The 6-foot-5 Harvey-Clemons chose the Bulldogs over offers from Florida, Florida State and Miami, citing a good relationship with coaches and the atmosphere of Athens as the reasons to sign with Georgia.

“I had a strong relationship with Coach (Todd) Grantham, and after leaving there, it felt like home and I knew immediately that is where I wanted to go,” Harvey-Clemons said on signing day.

Once he signed with the Bulldogs, Harvey-Clemons joined former Valdosta Wildcats Malcolm Mitchell, Jay Rome and Michael Gilliard in Athens. The former Lowndes star said his relationship with Mitchell played a factor in his decision to sign with the Bulldogs.

“I talked to Malcolm and he just told me to make the best decision for me,” Harvey-Clemons said. “He told me I was going to have to work wherever I go, so make sure to go where I wanted to be.”

In his first season with the Bulldogs, Harvey-Clemons played multiple positions. After being recruited as a linebacker, he was moved to safety by Georgia coaches because he weighed too little. Despite dressing for every game, including the Southeastern Conference Championship Game against Alabama in Atlanta, Harvey-Clemons saw minimal action on defense because of the strong play of veteran players like Shawn Williams and Bacarri Rambo, both of whom will likely play in the National Football League next year.

With the lack of playing time, Harvey-Clemons vented his possible frustration on Twitter midway through the season, saying that maybe his grandfather was right about not attending Georgia.

After the tweet started to circulate, Harvey-Clemons removed the tweet, sending out a final tweet that expressed his love and passion for Georgia, including that people were trying to “twist” his words.

Harvey-Clemons saw limited action at linebacker in 2012. He moved back to his recruited position when the Bulldogs faced the option attacks of Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech in their final two regular season games. He quickly made the switch back to safety for the SEC championship game and for the Bulldogs’ upcoming bowl game.

Heading into the Jan. 1 Capital One Bowl game against Nebraska, Harvey-Clemons has tallied 13 tackles and a fumble recovery this season. A decision on what position he will play next season is still unknown, as Georgia coaches have said that won’t be decided until spring practice.