Oct. 9, 2000
By Marsha Byers Sports Information Student AssistantThe NC State Game Program – October 7, 2000
John McDermott’s childhood is not filled with pee-wee, middle school or many high school football memories or dream of becoming a college football player. Nor is his memory filled with recollections of afternoons spent on the football field or in the weight room with his classmates and friends. Instead it is filled with memories of being home-schooled by his mother, Jill Wolfe, and spending a lot of time with his bother and sister. It was not until late in his high school years, did McDermott become serious about playing football at the college level.
His education was experienced based. He learned early math skills by price-comparing at the grocery store. Fractions were mastered while helping his mother prepare the family meals or balancing his mother’s checkbook. From National Geographic and The Learning Channel, McDermott learned geography, English and science. He loved the life lessons he was getting by his home-schooled education.
“It makes you learn more outside the box than what everyone tell you. I was learning fist-hand how to live”, McDermott said.
McDermott has both a younger brother and sister. His mother is home schooling both of them as she did him. Jeffrey Herbst, his 16-year-old brother, is playing football and hopes to follow in his brother’s footsteps and play college football. Jacqui Herbst, his 11-year-old sister, plays basketball much like her eldest brother did when he was younger.
As a child, he loved the sports of basketball, swimming, volleyball and wrestling. He was on the Georgia state wrestling championship team his senior year of high school. He did attend one recreation league football practice, when he was 12. McDermott returned home unsatisfied and wanted to continue with the other sports he really felt comfortable with.
Only when he thought about his future did he consider playing football again. While doing full-time construction work in Georgia, McDermott decided he wanted to try to earn a football scholarship in order to receive a college education. After getting his home school credits approved the Georgia High School Association cleared him to play in only seven games. He was forced to play defensive end because he did not have enough time to learn the assignments needed to play offensive line.
He was motivated by the doubt of those who thought he could not make it in the college football world. McDermott’s home school education helped him have the confidence it took to promote himself to colleges. “I have had to be self-motivated since I have been a young child. My Mom and dad helped me with my homework, but they did not always check up on me and make sure I was completing all my assignments,” explained McDermott.
Clearance to play high school football was not his only obstacle, he had to take night classes, along with a full load during the day, to graduate from Sequoyah High School. McDermott knew what it was going to take for him to make it on the college level, because he had attended a college class with his mother when he was 13 years old.
She was taking a Chemistry class at Kennesaw State University for her nursing job and she brought her son along to expose him to the college experience. He attended all the classes and took the tests and finished the course with a “B.”
After the football season was over, McDermott began to go after the dream of becoming a college football player. He began to make highlight tapes in his school library. He and his mother started calling colleges and mailing out his tapes.
During this time they both learned a lot about college football. They found that in order to get a college football scholarship, they both had to be persistent and very aggressive.
“My Mom was very sure of me,” McDermott recalled. She knew that I could play football on the Division I level. I never had any doubt that she believe in me, although I had some doubt from my high school coaches.”
After continuously calling colleges and recruiting coordinators, he began to receive some interest from several Division II schools. Finally big schools, Clemson, N.C. State, Alabama and Central Florida extended scholarship offers. He finally “chose Clemson for its great football tradition and the family atmosphere between the fans, coaches, player and the staff.”
Upon his arrival to Clemson as the last signee of the 1996 class, he chose Industrial Education with a focus in Human Resources as his major. When McDermott completes his eligibility, he wants to train new employees in a construction business, relying on his background in construction. He received his degree in May and is currently working on graduate courses in education.
As a freshman, McDermott played defense and was later moved to offense. He found his place on the Clemson offensive line and was recognized for his performance earlier this year against Wake Forest with the Hit of the Week award.
“I have grown to love playing on offense because I get to score. I really like the aggressive Clemson offense,” said McDermott. “I hear the crowd first when we score, then I run into the endzone and congratulate my teammates.”
Last season McDermott lead the entire Clemson team in total snaps with 923. McDermott went from playing just 68 total plays in his first two seasons to playing 80 snaps Clemson’s opening game against Marshall. He started in every game and was the only player (offense or defense) to play in every snap of ten games.
McDermott said he has learned a lot from coach Tommy Bowden and his staff. “They are the best coaches I have ever had. Coach Bowden and coach (Rich) Rodriguez are very intense” McDermott said. He also had a lot of spiritual growth as a person by the addition of Darren Bruce, the team chaplain. Bruce leads a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting on Wednesday nights that McDermott regularly attends.
McDermott spends his free time woodworking. He enjoys building things for his friends and family. He has built several things this year for his house in Seneca, that he shares with teammate Theo Mougros (see page 7). His favorite class at Clemson was is Construction Technology.
“I made a picnic table for my little sisters, and a dog house. The table is outside in my backyard next to the pool.” On his off weekends McDermott enjoys going home to Woodstock, GA and helping to repairs around his house for his mom.
After football season is over, McDermott intends to join the Habitat for Humanity group in Clemson. He will help build houses and speak in churches in the Clemson area asking them for volunteers and support. His past experience in construction and his degree will be very helpful as he looks to give back to the Clemson community.
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