TAMPA — Sickles High’s Ray Ray McCloud III, the most dynamic running back to emerge from Hillsborough County in recent years, ended his recruiting process Monday night when he announced his verbal commitment to Clemson.
“It was something spiritually about Clemson, the faith they have as a team, they’re family oriented and it felt like it was best for me,” said McCloud, who made the announcment on Bright House Sports Network.
McCloud is the county’s third prize recruit to choose Clemson, joining Tampa Bay Tech quarterback Deon Cain and Plant offensive tackle Jake Fruhmorgen.
McCloud, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound, four-star recruit who is ranked second in the nation at the athlete position, chose Clemson over UCLA, Maryland, South Florida and Florida.
Prior to making his decision, McCloud said he visited USF and Florida State.
McCloud also committed to play in the 2015 Under-Armour All-American Game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
After the 2013 season, the McClouds visited more than 20 schools, including Florida State and Miami. McCloud said he made his decision based on a number of factors. A program with a reputation for sending players to the NFL was not one of them.
“If you play well, you can go to the NFL from any place,” he said.
Instead, his selection process weighed life as a student-athlete.
“(It was) what that school can do for me academically and socially as well,” McCloud said. “I want a future after football.”
His father, Ray McCloud, said, “For me and my wife, it was about academics and social life. Take football out of it. Can you see yourself living here without football?”
As a junior, McCloud had 2,489 total yards, including a county-best 2,316 on the ground with 26 touchdowns, to lead the Gryphons to their first district title and region championship appearance.
McCloud was recruited as a offensive weapon, with coaches planning to use him as a running back, slot receiver and on special teams.
McCloud burst onto the recruiting scene following a breakout sophomore year in which he rushed for 1,319 yards with 12 touchdowns. Entering his junior year, Clemson and Vanderbilt were among the programs to begin actively recruiting him.
Ending his recruiting process before the 2014 season was important to McCloud, who witnessed the stress of waiting on former teammate Josh Black, who signed with USF.
“Just watching Josh, it looked overwhelming,” McCloud said. “I didn’t want to go through that.”