Fiesta Bowl: Kirk Herbstreit’s sons enjoying life as Clemson walk-ons

There was no sense in hiding it: This is a weird time to be a Herbstreit.

Well, at least that is the case for two of them.

Jake and Tye Herbstreit admitted as much Thursday during media day for the Fiesta Bowl, a College Football Playoff semifinal that will pit Ohio State against Clemson on Saturday night.

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For most of their 19 years, the two being involved with an Ohio State game would not be abnormal.

Their father, former Centerville and Ohio State quarterback Kirk Herbstreit, raised them as Buckeye fans and even had pulled them up on stage from time to time during tapings of ESPN’s College GameDay morning show.

(Long-time fans of the show will no doubt remember seeing the towheaded twosome invading the stage after Lee Corso put on a Brutus Buckeye head to cap the show. Their two younger siblings also got to be part of the show eventually)

This time they will be on the other side, however, as both are true freshmen walk-ons at Clemson.

"Yeah, it's crazy. It's like a dream,” Tye said. "It’s always been kind of like a dream to play for Ohio State, but to play against them, like, that's really cool, too."

The identical twins were born in Ohio and moved to Tennessee with their parents in 2011.

They played football at Montgomery Bell Academy and began drawing some recruiting interest after attending a Clemson camp between their junior and senior year.

The camp led to a preferred walk-on offer from the Tigers, who are coached by Dabo Swinney.

“Then just receiving stuff in the mail like every week from them kind of like planted a seed in the back of my mind and then my dad just loving coach Swinney, that really made the decision really easy on signing day,” Tye said. “I just knew I wanted to come to Clemson.”

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Both have seen action in four games this season, meaning they are still eligible to redshirt.

While Jake is a 5-foot-11, 170-pound cornerback, Tye is a receiver listed 5-10, 165.

They play different positions but share a major — business with an intent to study marketing.

Not coincidentally, that was the academic path for their father.

Or, as Tye tells it: “My dad actually got a business degree. He went to school, but he didn't really use it. He just went on a radio show and somehow got into College GameDay, so yeah.”

Whether a similar future for his Kirk’s sons is in the offing remains to be seen, but both have enjoyed their first season as college football players.

“I've been on special teams and I went in on offense, even though I'm a cornerback, but yeah it's been fun,” Jake said. "I think as a redshirt it's important to be a big part of the scout team to give those guys a good look. And also a year in the weightlifting program has been pretty beneficial to me, and I'm excited to see where that goes.”

Naturally, Kirk Herbstreit is a proud dad this week as he prepares to call the game for ESPN.

“I’m so proud of them just for where they are,” he said Friday. “They very easily could have gone to a smaller school, but growing up in my family they traveled with me all the time and went to these types of games so when the preferred walk-on offer came they decided to go to a place like Clemson and of course I applauded them and whatever they wanted to do.”

He admitted his sons matching up with his alma mater is a little surreal but said he will not have a problem separating his now divided allegiances during the game.

The rest of his family might be another story, though.

While his wife, Allison, plans to sit with the Clemson parents Saturday night, his youngest son, Chase, remains all Buckeye and plans to wear Ohio State clothes to the game. That prompted Kirk to get a pair of tickets in the Ohio State section.

He also said Chase has been relentless in talking trash to his older brothers — to the point Kirk had to tell him to tone it down a little bit.

“He is crushing them, like ‘You haven’t played anybody. You’ll see!’ So if Ohio State loses, Ohio State players will be sad, but nobody is gonna take it harder than Chase,” he said.

With four games under their belts, the twins will not play again this season, but their father is excited to see what the future holds for them.

“Where they go from here will be very exciting to see,” he said. “I think it’s about development. Whether you’re a highly touted kid or a redshirt walk-on freshman, it’s about development.”

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