Berkeley's Andre Ellington will sign with the Clemson Tigers on Wednesday, and the shifty running back realizes his life will head in a different direction.
"I know it's another step in life," said the state's top running back, who rushed for 1,820 yards and 24 touchdowns his senior season. "It's another step, but in a much different direction. College football is more intense than high school football."
The players are bigger, faster, stronger and smarter. Everyone is an all-star when you're a member of a recruiting class that is ranked as high as No. 4 nationally. Making the adjustment on the football field is tough. Making the transition from high school life to college life is even tougher. Mom and Dad are more than 100 miles away, your friends have gone on to other colleges and you are officially on your own.
Anything to ease the transition helps. That's where one-time foe and now friend Brandon Ford comes in. Ford, a star wide receiver for Hanahan, will also sign with Clemson on Wednesday, and the bond between the two Berkeley County football players will continue to grow. They met a couple of years ago during a scrimmage, made official visits to Clemson on the same weekend and will sign a national letter of intent in the same place on the same day. They are friends and will be roommates when the Tigers' freshmen football players report in late summer.
"We talked after that (scrimmage)," Ford said. "We made our official visits on the same weekend, hit it off and continued to talk. Now, we hang out together when we have free time on weekends."
Both players had outstanding seasons. Ellington could have topped the 2,000-yard mark if not for injuries. Ford caught 78 passes for 1,703 yards and 22 touchdowns. Both players earned first-team All-Lowcountry honors, and both were selected to play in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas.
Ellington began the season as the most-hyped back in the state. Ford began the season as an unheralded player. Both players used hard work to reach their goals.
"Being the top back in the state, I didn't let it get to me," Ellington said. "When I ran on to the field, I just wanted to be the best player I could possibly be. I didn't worry about anything else."
Hanahan coach Jeff Cruce said the 6-4, 200-pound Ford is an Aaron Kelly look-alike.
"Brandon's a little bigger, but not as fast," Cruce said. "I don't think he's tapped his potential. He wasn't on the radar screen after his junior season. He had a phenomenal senior season and I think his best days ahead, just like Marcus Howard."
Howard was a linebacker who went to Georgia without a lot of hype. But he played well for the Bulldogs and was named the MVP of last month's Sugar Bowl.
Ford said his performances at summer camps helped him open eyes and get recruited. He was consistently in the 4.5, 4.6 range in the 40-yard dash.
"Coach told me there would be a lot of people, a lot of coaches, who didn't think I could do it. He told me to prove them wrong."
While Ford draws comparisons to Kelly, Berkeley coach Jerry Brown compares Ellington to Clemson running back C.J. Spiller.
"He can run over you. He can run around you. Once he gets outside, it's treacherous because of his speed. He can catch passes, that's just a very versatile back. To me, he's a Spiller-type," Brown said in an earlier intreview.
"I think he's going to be about the same weight when he gets to college," Brown added. "Spiller is not a huge guy, and I think that somewhat influenced his decision. To me, he reminds me of Spiller."