Dillon County is a little place located in the top-right corner of South Carolina, about an hour-and-twenty minutes from Myrtle Beach, and right on the border of North Carolina. There are three towns that make up the historical little county: Dillon, Lake View and Latta. It’s not a very well-known place unless you’ve ever had to play Lake View, Dillon or Dillon Christian School in 1A, AA, or AAA football in South Carolina, Latta in 1A baseball, or have been driving down I-95 and stopped at the “Mexican Disneyland” known as South of the Border, which just happens to be on the edge of it all. Despite the low profile it keeps, there’s plenty of big talent that comes out of it.
Clemson football is pretty familiar with Dillon County. One of Clemson’s greats, Derrick Hamilton out of Dillon High School, played for the Tigers from 2001-2003. He was drafted by the San Francisco 49’ers in 2004 and played in the NFL for five years. Another one of Clemson and Dillon County’s greats is linebacker Anthony Waters out of Lake View High School. Anthony was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in 2007 and played in the NFL for 4 years. Waters even picked up a Super Bowl Ring with the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV.
Another big name from Dillon County that always rings a bell when it’s heard is linebacker Quandon Christian, who went to Lake View High School, where he played football, basketball and baseball. According to ESPN, he was the #22 OLB in the nation. He was also the #23 player in South Carolina by all positions. As a senior, Christian was a permanent co-captain and a College All-Star Bowl invitee. Quandon graduated from Clemson in December of 2013 with a sociology degree.
Dillon County has produced countless elite athletes over the years on college football rosters at schools like Clemson, South Carolina, Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina, Charleston Southern, Wake Forest and many more. There is even one currently on an NFL roster. Darius Leonard, brother of aforementioned Clemson star Anthony Waters, plays for the Indianapolis Colts. He received the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award for 2018-2019 and was just named a captain for the Indianapolis Colts this season.
Dillon County has also produced a professional basketball player, Raymond Felton, who starred at UNC and now plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Dillon County even produces outstanding baseball players such as Jamie Callahan, who was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 2012 and made his Major League debut with the Mets in 2017. Another, Kwinton Smith, was drafted by the Texas Rangers in 2012 but chose to continue football career at the University of South Carolina. Another Dillon County baseball player from Latta High School, Dylan Brewer, is a new member of the Tigers’ baseball team this year.
The Clemson football team also has a Dillon County product on the roster. Luke Price is a redshirt sophomore tight end at Clemson and is currently second on the depth chart after transitioning from linebacker last spring. Luke’s older brother, Phillip Price, played for Dabo Swinney on the offensive line at Clemson from 2007-2011. He was a first-team All-ACC player and was the first Clemson walk-on since 1991 to receive All-ACC recognition. Luke has followed his big brother’s example and was awarded Offensive Scout Team Player-of-the-Year as well as the Strength and Conditioning Dedication Award alongside Clelin Ferrell and Adam Choice at the end of the 2018 season.
Luke came out of high school with no scholarship offers but had spent much of his youth on the Clemson campus to watch his brother play and to attend camps. He fell in love with the school and the coaches and had no intention to attend any other college. “I’ve known Luke, all them Price boys…they’re just great young men, they’re tough as heck and just naturally good players,” said Dabo of his relationship with Luke and the Price family, “Luke’s worked really, really hard. He’s very respected on the team because of his work ethic.” Dabo actually recruited Phillip, as Dillon County was one of his recruiting areas as an assistant coach. He said that although he knew they wouldn’t have a scholarship for Phillip, Dabo called him literally every week, “Just to tell him that I loved him and don’t forget about me. I recruited Phillip as if he was a scholarship guy because I really felt like he could come in and develop as a college player. Ironically, he came in as a tight end, and we ended up moving him to tackle, and he was our starting left tackle on our first ACC Championship team.”
In high school, Luke played both tight end and linebacker. Having more of an affinity for defense, Luke walked on as a linebacker. However, the Tigers lost two tight ends in Milan Richard and Garrett Williams, and a third—Braden Galloway—is serving an NCAA suspension until December. So last spring, Dabo asked Luke to move over to the other side of the ball and back up J.C. Chalk at tight end, and Price proceeded to be lauded by Dabo as one of the top performers in August Camp.
Dabo Swinney introduced Luke’s transition from linebacker to tight end after a practice in March. “That guy will bite you,” said Dabo as Price began to learn the fundamentals of the tight end position for Clemson, “We got him in the right spot. He’s a good football player…he’s tough, physical, still very raw…” By the end of August, Swinney said, “He’s physical, he’s strong. He’s one of the strongest kids on the team…and he’s really smart. He’s a natural football player, understands the game, understands the defense...he’s done a great job. He’s made himself a factor.” Luke was put on scholarship last spring and has earned every bit of it. He’s had had key blocks in multiple games this season and led the way for rushing touchdowns by Trevor Lawrence in their three biggest games against Texas A&M, UNC and FSU. He also recorded his first catch against UNC Charlotte and caught another for 14 yards to the Boston College 3-yard-line that set up an Etienne touchdown. After the FSU game, Dabo had more praise for Price: “He’s a very smart and instinctive football player that’s gonna get better and better, and it’s given us some flexibility. It really has…it’s bought us some time with some of these young guys and given us a little bit more of a veteran feel there…I’m proud of Luke.”
Luke is majoring in Health Science at Clemson. Aside from his NFL aspirations, he wants to go into medicine—maybe physical therapy. While school is always his most important focus, much frustration comes with being a student-athlete. Time management is one of the most important skills Luke said he needs to cultivate so his school work does not pile up while trying to focus on the football season as well. After his older brother Phillip left Clemson, he eventually became Luke’s coach at Dillon Christian School. Although Luke no longer has Phillip’s guidance on the football field, he can always lean on his big brother when he’s frustrated about school, football or anything else on his mind.
When Luke was asked to move from linebacker to tight end, he was excited because he knew it was a better opportunity for him to see the field. Playing in a similar system in high school, TE was much easier for him to learn than linebacker at the collegiate level. Having played defense also gave Luke a unique advantage at the tight end position because he developed a meanness and determination that offensive players seldom possess. Luke’s strongest attribute on the field is his ability to communicate with the offensive line, running back and quarterback, but he believes that the biggest thing to improve on is his route running and catching after his two-year hiatus from the offensive side of the ball. His favorite thing about playing for Clemson is the family he has gained through his teammates and the love and care they show for each other. When asked what being a Clemson Tiger means to him, Luke said, “Being a Clemson player means that there is a level of accountability with everything that I do and that there is always someone watching how I act and making sure I am the best version of myself. This program is special because of the culture the coaches have built around being a family and sticking together through everything good and/or bad.”
Luke’s biggest motivation is everyone that always doubted him because of where he comes from. After winning a State Championship in high school with Dillon Christian School, a National Championship at Clemson and earning a scholarship from one of the top football programs in the nation, he seems to already be proving everyone wrong. Price continues to augment his long list of accomplishments that includes back-to-back ACC Titles and College Football Playoff appearances. As the list of Dillon County greats at Clemson – and many other schools – continues, we look forward to seeing what Luke Price will continue to add onto the Dillon County football legacy at Clemson, just as Derrick Hamilton, Anthony Waters and Quandon Christian did before him.
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