Paramus Catholic High School’s Rashan Gary, widely regarded as the top high school athlete in the country, was the target of a threat left on the voicemail of the New Jersey school’s athletic department by someone identifying himself as a fan of Clemson University, a school Rashan had been looking into, NorthJersey.com reports.
The 58-second message was left at 2:30 a.m. Jan. 28, just one day before Rashan’s official visit to Clemson, authorities say.
According to authorities, the mysterious caller said, “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.
“So you better not be fooling around; if you’re gonna get a visit, you better be committin’,” the caller continued. “So, just be aware, 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. So if you’re coming down here, you better be serious. All right, Rashan Gary, you better be the real deal. Over and out, this is Clemson Dan saying goodbye.”
According to NorthJersey.com, once officials at Paramus Catholic heard the message, they tried to notify the defensive lineman and his mother, Jennifer Coney. However, neither of them could be reached because both were traveling to Atlanta, where Rashan was to receive the Bobby Dodd Award as the best high school lineman in the country. After the award, the mother-son duo were traveling straight to South Carolina to officially visit Clemson.
The high school’s president, Jim Vail, then decided to reach out to Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables to warn him about the message and to ask the coach to guarantee Rashan’s safety during the visit. Vail told NorthJersey.com that his initial feeling was that “Clemson Dan” was just a trick, some fan from a rival school trying to get people worked up. However, he took the thinly veiled threat seriously, just to be safe.
“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.”
According to NorthJersey.com, there is no suspect at this time, but Paramus police have issued search warrants to the phone company to try to find the number from which the call was made, though they acknowledged the unlikelihood that doing so would lead to “Clemson Dan.”
Rashan’s mother said that she thinks the message was “crazy” and that it was “absolutely not” someone from Clemson.
“They wouldn’t have done that, being that we’re black people from the North. Why would you say that I’m ‘Clemson Dan’ and say something about threatening from the Ku Klux Klan and ‘we’re serious down here’?” Coney said. “I would think that there was somebody who didn’t want Rashan to consider Clemson.”
Coney said she played the message for family and members of the Clemson football staff.
“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.”
Of course, by that time Clemson officials already knew about the threat because Vail had reached out to them. Coney said she is bothered that the university officials did not let her know that they knew about the message first and then assure her that they were doing everything they could to protect her son.
“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 you knew, and they should have let me know that they knew.”
At the end of the day, Rashan chose to commit to the University of Michigan, but Coney said that she did not sway her son in that decision at all.
“It didn’t turn Rashan off of Clemson,” she said. “Remember, Rashan is a kid, and he thinks he’s invincible and nothing affects him. 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.”
Read more at NorthJersey.com.