A New Jersey high school football star was the target of a threatening voice mail left on his school’s answering machine a day before he visited prospective school Clemson University.
The message was left for Rashan Gary, a defensive lineman for Paramus Catholic High School and the top football recruit for the class of 2016.
On Jan. 28 at 2:30 a.m., the phone message was delivered to the voice mail of the school’s athletic department from someone identifying themselves as “Clemson Dan.”
According to authorities, the caller stated, “Yes, this here is ‘Clemson Dan,’ and this message is for Mr. Rashan Gary. We just wantin’ to know if you’re coming down here for a visit, you better be serious about it, ’cause there’s only two things we love, and that’s Clemson football and the KKK.”
The 58-second message went on to say that Rashan better be committed to playing for Clemson because “this ain’t no fooling thing. We Clemson. We big-time football down here.”
“We don’t take no losers, no stragglers, no lazies, no dumb people … so if you’re coming down here, you gotta do just like the KKK and be serious about your football,” the caller continued.
NorthJersey.com reports that Paramus athletic director Scott Langan notified the school’s president, Jim Vail, of the message when he got to his office around 10:30 that morning. Vail then attempted to reach Rashan and his mother, Jennifer Coney, but was unable; both had shut off their cell phones. They were headed to Atlanta at the time, as Rashan was to receive the Bobby Dodd Award for being the best high school lineman in the nation. From there, the mother-son duo would make the two-hour trip to Clemson, South Carolina for the football recruit’s official visit.
Vail then contacted Clemson’s defensive coordinator, Brent Venables, to warn him about the message and requested that the coach guarantee Rashan’s safety during his visit. The high school president said his initial thoughts were that “Clemson Dan” was just a prankster from a rival school trying to shake things up. However, he took the threat seriously just to be on the safe side.
“This wasn’t a death threat,” Paramus Police Detective Thomas Schroeder said, “but it can be unnerving when you don’t know who it is.”
There are no suspects at this time, but the police department has issued a search warrant from the phone company to trace where the call came from. It is unlikely that the tip will lead directly to “Clemson Dan” though.
This incident marks the second time a nationally known football player from Paramus Catholic has been threatened. A redshirt sophomore, Jabrill Peppers, received death threats when he starred for the Paladins, according to Vail. The high school assigned security to watch over him before and after games.
Rashan’s mother, who played the tape for members of the football staff, thinks the voicemail was “crazy” and doesn’t believe anyone affiliated with the university was the culprit.
“I took the time to let everybody listen to the voicemail,” Coney said. “And I’m telling you, everybody appeared shocked. They appeared distraught, like this is unbelievable.”
By then, Clemson officials already knew about the phone message from “Clemson Dan” because school president Vail had contacted them. Coney said she was troubled by the fact that university officials didn’t inform her they were already aware of the voice mail.
“That disturbed me,” she said. “I kept talking about it, like, ‘Who is this Clemson Dan?’ They didn’t seem too concerned about it. They kind of chuckled it off, after their initial shock … I think what just kind of got me was [they] knew, and they should have let me know that they knew.”
In the end, Rashan decided to commit to the University of Michigan. But his mom says the incident didn’t influence his choice at all.
“Remember, Rashan is a kid, and he thinks he’s invincible and nothing affects him,” she said. “He loved Clemson and so did I. I just think that he felt overall — not just as a football player — [Michigan] would be the place where he’d benefit the most from going to school.”