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High School Sports

Corona Centennial’s Korey Foreman finds his calling at Clemson

Centennial defensive lineman Korey Foreman, left, and linebacker Josaiah Tanielu celebrate a sack of Orange Lutheran’s Jack Fierro on Nov. 2, 2018.
Centennial defensive lineman Korey Foreman, left, and linebacker Josaiah Tanielu celebrate a sack of Orange Lutheran’s Jack Fierro on Nov. 2, 2018.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A cross-country trip last Saturday that featured tears, cheers, thrills and chills, first impressions and a sensational second look led to Mariessa and Kevin Foreman Sr. snickering behind the back of their son, Korey.

“They started giggling, and I wanted to know what they were talking about,” said Korey, the Corona Centennial High defensive lineman and nation’s No. 1 football prospect in the 2021 recruiting class. “My mom didn’t tell me right then and there.”

The parents had already come to a realization that Korey would lock in on over the next couple of hours. He was Clemson-bound.

The family was visiting the small upstate South Carolina town set in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains for Clemson’s junior day recruiting event. Korey had been on the campus previously, but it was the first trip for his parents.

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Seeing the way Korey had floated around the campus throughout the day and was taking in every word Tigers coach Dabo Swinney was saying, his parents had their suspicions. Then after Korey had compiled a list of 10 reasons why Clemson was the best fit as his parents had asked him to do on any visit, Kevin leaned over and whispered to his wife, “We lost him.”

In an individual meeting with the coaching staff soon after, Swinney asked Korey how he felt about the visit. Korey’s eyes began to fill with emotion. He asked for a minute alone and chose to call his cousin, who is a pastor and also his godfather. Before he could say anything into the phone, Foreman was overwhelmed with tears.

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A voice came through the phone: “What’s up?”

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“I think this is where I want to be,” Foreman said. “He asked, ‘Where you at?’ And I told him Clemson. He was like, ‘Man, I knew this from the get-go. Man, I was already dotting this down in my head. I already knew we lost you before you knew it.’ ”

The 6-foot-4, 265-pound Foreman had his list of positives, but he was concerned about leaving his family and friends in Southern California. A reassuring message from his cousin led him to follow his heart.

“At the end of the day, everybody can’t go and meet your attributes and your goals with you. That’s something that is set personally,” Foreman said. “You can’t go out and set goals for other people without meeting yours first. You want to help your friends grow, but at the same time, you got to meet your own attributes personally.”

When Foreman returned to the room, Swinney again asked how he was feeling. Foreman took a deep breath and committed to trade in the Death Valley in the desert of Southern California for the Death Valley of a small college town on the banks of Lake Hartwell: “Coach, I’m all in.”

Foreman said Swinney quickly corrected him. “He said, ‘Nah, we all in!’ Then he looked at my mom and dad, gave them a hug and then he promised my dad he would look out for me and vouch for me as his son while I’m over here across the country.”

Foreman felt an icy sensation. But it wasn’t just a brief bump of cool air cascading over him.

“The chills only last for a second,” Foreman said. “But I tell you those chills was at least 10 seconds or 15. Geez Louise! You could have sworn he had the A/C on in his office.”

It wasn’t the first time Foreman got chills talking to Swinney. Foreman estimated he had spent three to four hours speaking with the coach throughout the day. Swinney’s message of physical, emotional and spiritual development had occasionally piqued the skin on the back of Foreman’s neck.

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“I just loved it. Everything about that school is genuine to me,” Foreman said. “I’ve been to a lot of campuses and nothing has been anywhere near Clemson. I’ve been to schools with wonderful uniforms, with wonderful facilities, a really nice coaching staff, but I built a rapport with the whole coaching staff at Clemson.

“My inner self, sometimes, just hasn’t been able to go out and be able to do that to other colleges.”

Near commits

There was only one other coach with whom Foreman had built a similar connection. It was that concord that led him to nearly land at two other schools.

“I was going to commit to USC, the very second I got [a scholarship offer] because coach Kenechi Udeze has been so real to me,” Foreman said. “I had a rapport with coach KU from the start. He helped me out for everything. He always wanted to know how my day was and he was all about God too.”

But Udeze was let go as USC’s defensive line coach. When Udeze got a support staff position at Louisiana State, Foreman built a relationship with Ed Orgeron’s staff and planned to commit to the purple and gold Tigers.

When Udeze, who recently took a coaching position with Vanderbilt, couldn’t assure Foreman he would be with the LSU program for the next three to four years, Foreman was disappointed and felt his recruitment process had just been completely reset. He told his parents he felt something was going on, “not at the school but something with God.”

“The next thing you know, I got a text message,” Foreman said. “I checked my phone and saw it was from Dabo Swinney. Instantly I got the chills and I was like ‘What the heck?’ He invited me to the junior day and then that’s how everything went.”

Not planned but still possible

Following his commitment, Foreman immediately canceled a visit to Georgia he had planned for the next day. He doesn’t have any other visits planned but wouldn’t rule out taking some official visits in order to set a foundation for his two brothers and give them an opportunity to meet coaches and see different campus environments around the country.

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The five-star defensive end prospect is the third high-profile Southern California recruit to commit to Clemson in the last year, joining Bellflower St. John Bosco High quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, who is already enrolled, and St. John Bosco receiver Beaux Collins, who will a senior next season.

Prior to the addition of Folsom High receiver Joseph Ngata last season, Clemson had not had a player from California on its roster since 2011 and had not signed a California high school prospect since 1991.


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