'You can't really ask much more than this': Alberta teen scoring big for Clemson's college football juggernaut
EDMONTON -- He's a budding star at an American college football powerhouse, but Ajou Ajou is all Alberta through and through.
Born in Calgary, raised in Brooks and a two-sport provincial high school champion in Edmonton, Ajou is proud of his roots.
"I'm just super thankful, you can't really ask much more than this," he said from South Carolina.
"It means a lot because I've got so many friends from there and if they sacrificed just a little more they could be doing what I'm doing."
After being a part of Harry Ainlay's track, basketball and football teams, Ajou moved to Florida and Clearwater Academy International last year where he caught the eye of college scouts.
The 18-year-old receiver signed on to Clemson, a perennial national championship challenger and national title winner two of the last four season.
"It wasn't even the school really ... just the people. When you're driving in Clemson...we took the backroad and it was just country and farms ... kind of like Brooks."
COLLEGE FOOTBALL POWERHOUSE
He's the school's first-ever Canadian recruit and is part of an offence led by star quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne.
Ajou sees limited playing time as a first-year player, but managed to grab his first career touchdown catch in the waning moments of a win over Georgia Tech earlier this month.
"I catch the ball and I'm like ... 'this is really happening now,'" he said. "I was speechless until I sat down on the bench. I had nothing to say ... my teammates were going crazy."
"I've been wanting this to happen my entire life ... it was just blurry."
Ajou says he's proud to be the latest in a growing number of Canadian stars to shine on American college football's biggest stages.
Sherwood Park's Chuba Hubbard led the sport in rushing yards last season for the Oklahoma State Cowboys, also becoming just the fourth Canadian, and first since 1995, to receive votes for the Heisman Trophy, awarded to the most outstanding player.
"He started this whole NCAA thing in Alberta," said Ajou of Hubbard.
Those two are joined by Hubbard's teammate and fellow Albertan Amen Ogbongbemiga as well as Brampton, Ont.'s John Metchie at Alabama, Peterborough, Ont.'s Jared Wayne, and Windsor, Ont.'s Theo Johnson at Penn State among others.
Abbotsford, B.C.'s Chase Claypool was drafted out of Notre Dame by the Pittsburgh Steelers last spring and captured headlines with a four-touchdown performance earlier this month.
Ajou is hopeful those examples can encourage future Canadian stars to follow in his footsteps.
"It's amazing...we can finally showcase our talents at such a high level and that Canadians got it too."