- College football reporter.
- Joined ESPN.com in 2008.
- Graduate of Northwestern University.
CORVALLIS, Ore. — DJ Uiagalelei walked to the back of Oregon State’s media room, looking for an off-switch to stop the music still blaring from a photo shoot with visiting recruits.
After a brief search, he found the right button and took a seat as the room fell silent. Uiagalelei doesn’t need a soundtrack for the next phase of his college career. He experienced the glitz of being a five-star recruit for an upper-crust program, and was then anointed as Clemson’s next great quarterback, following Trevor Lawrence and Deshaun Watson. Uiagalelei was among the first group of high-profile college athletes to benefit from name, image and likeness opportunities, reaching deals with Dr Pepper, Bojangles and other brands.
He lives a simpler life these days, even while trying to absorb a complex offense at Oregon State, where he transferred after three years at Clemson. Uiagalelei moved from a small college town in the Southeast to one in the Northwest, but the places and the programs couldn’t be more different. Clemson is the ultimate fishbowl, especially for the starting quarterback of an annual College Football Playoff contender. Here, he enjoys a level of anonymity, not drawing much attention as he and his girlfriend sample restaurants around town.
Those who have been around Oregon State describe the program as one where outsized egos don’t fly. Uiagalelei has blended in well. He picked Oregon State with a clear purpose, to master an offense he feels better suits his skills, and one that will ultimately help his profile for the NFL. He also doesn’t want to look too far ahead.
“My story, this is not how I envisioned it, but that’s the beauty of it,” Uiagalelei told ESPN. “You always have a sense of what you want your future to look like, everyone dreams about it, but you don’t know. You’re not promised tomorrow, we’re only promised today.”
Uiagalelei is among the group of quarterbacks seeking fresh starts at different programs in 2023. Some are immersing themselves in new systems, while others followed familiar coaches, sought bigger platforms or just wanted a new environment. Here’s a closer look at Uiagalelei’s move to Oregon State and five other quarterbacks — NC State’s Brennan Armstrong, Purdue’s Hudson Card, Notre Dame’s Sam Hartman, Kentucky’s Devin Leary and BYU’s Kedon Slovis — who are beginning new chapters in their college careers.
Previous school: Clemson
2022 stats: 2,521 pass yards, 29 total TDs, 7 interceptions, 62.1% completions
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