Kevin Youngblood watched as the Clemson football coaches and players filed off the buses and made their way through the White House security.
The former Clemson wide receiver was searching for one face in particular: head coach Dabo Swinney, who had been Youngblood’s position coach when he was at the school from 2000-03.
When their eyes finally met, both broke out in huge grins and they embraced warmly.
Swinney and the rest of the Tigers football team were at the White House in June to be honored by President Donald Trump for winning the College Football Playoff national championship in January.
Youngblood, 36, was working that day.
For the past nine years, Youngblood has been an officer of the U.S. Secret Service Uniform Division, which is in charge of providing protection and security for federal grounds, including the one at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
“I was looking for coach Swinney. I wanted to make sure the first smile he saw when he got to the White House was mine,” Youngblood said. “That was a great moment for both of us. He was my position coach when I was at Clemson and we went through a lot together. To be able to share that moment was surreal for both of us.”
After graduating from Clemson in 2003, Youngblood bounced around the NFL for the better part of four seasons. The 6-5, 210-pound wide receiver was on the roster of three different teams —Atlanta, Carolina and Tampa Bay — playing in one game with the Falcons in 2006.
The Jacksonville native played one season for the Georgia Force in the Arena Football League and then decided to hang up his cleats.
“I knew that I couldn’t play football the rest of my life and I wanted to settle down and stay in one place,” Youngblood said. “I was ready to start the next chapter of my life.”
He was watching television one night and saw a story about the Secret Service. The idea of becoming an agent intrigued him. Youngblood reached out to former Clemson football player Billy Davis, who had been with the Secret Service for nearly two decades.
“I got a call from Kevin and he was interested in becoming an agent and I pointed him in the right direction,” said Davis, who played on Clemson’s first national championship team in 1981. “I got his foot in the door, but Kevin’s done the rest on his own.”
Youngblood, who had never been in law enforcement and knew almost nothing about the profession, went through the agency’s year-long training process and emerged on the other end as a member of the uniform division in 2009. He was immediately posted to the White House.
One of his first assignments was working President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.
“You try not to think about it because you’re there to do a job,” Youngblood said. “That was a really long day. I think I worked 24 straight hours, but it was a thrill to be able to be there on that day. Every person in America should go to at least one inauguration in their lifetime.”
Youngblood said playing for Clemson and in the NFL helped prepare him for the physical grind of his job.
“I definitely think it mentally prepared me for what I do today,” Youngblood said. “Football helped me a lot with going through two-a-day minicamps, and protection work is a lot like the offensive line where we make sure our job does not get interrupted.”
These days, Youngblood spends most of his time with the foreign missions — working security at foreign embassies or on security details for ambassadors and dignitaries.
“It’s something different every day and it’s an honor to have this job and do what I do,” Youngblood said.
Youngblood said seeing Swinney and Clemson assistant coaches Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott, who serve as the team's offensive coordinators, on the grounds of the White House was a highlight of his career with the Secret Service.
“I played with Tony and Jeff and they are two of my best friends,” Youngblood said. “It was just an awesome day for all of us.”
As the team was leaving the grounds, Youngblood made sure to get a photo with Swinney and Davis.
“I was proud to see Kevin Youngblood greet us at the White House,” Swinney said. “He was a receiver my first year as an assistant at Clemson and was an outstanding player. He takes great pride in Clemson and we take pride in his service for our country.”