The Willy Korn Interview (part II)

CLEMSON - In the second of the two-part series with former Clemson QB Willy Korn, the former high school All-American talks about life after Tigertown.

There was no Heisman Trophy. No National Championship. Not even an ACC title. Korn exited Clemson without any of the glory he and so many of the Tiger faithful had in mind.

But he didn't leave town empty handed, either.

In three years, he graduated with a degree in Communication Studies.

After earning his degree in the spring of 2010, Korn elected to transfer to play out his final two years of eligibility. NCAA rules allow graduates to finish their eligibility at another institution as long as they enroll in a graduate program that is not offered where the undergraduate degree was received.

Schools like Eastern Illinois, UMass, Gardner-Webb and Presbyterian were the main suitors before Marshall head coach Doc Holliday called.

"He's good friends with Kevin Steele. Coach Steele, I guess, gave a pretty good recommendation," Korn said. "[Holliday] was interested and it kind of went from there."

At Marshall, Korn arrived with a chip on his shoulder, hoping to prove everybody back home in South Carolina that there was plenty of juice left in the tank. There, Korn could compete for the starting quarterback job, or so he thought.

Things started off in the right direction before taking a turn for the worse.

"The summer went great," he said. "I out-worked the other guys. The strength coach loved me. He was a big fan of me. They gave out hardest worker for the position group, and I got that…camp started, two weeks into camp, I kind of noticed my reps -- I wasn't getting as much."

Korn paid a visit to the coaches' office to see what was going on with his snaps in practice. That's where the coaches told him that he would no longer be playing quarterback. The strength of Korn's arm didn't suit their preference.

The former high school All-American quarterback was moved to safety, where he stayed for two practices and one scrimmage.

"That was the low point of everything," Korn said. "The front page of the sports section in my hometown, The Herald Journal, talking about how I failed again…it took its toll, because nothing was going right for three-and-a-half years.

"At that point, I was just like, I'm going to hang them up."

His father, Lary, played a big role in keeping that option off the table.

"If my dad wasn't involved, I would have been like, I'm good. I'll call it a career," Korn said.

Just two weeks before the start of the 2010 season, Korn transferred to North Greenville. Because the Crusaders compete at the Division II level, he still had two years left to play.

That year, North Greenville won the NCCAA Victory Bowl championship. Korn completed 107 of 173 passes for 1,533 yards with 18 touchdowns and three interceptions. He also rushed for 133 yards and four scores.

"I finally got my confidence back, finally started to believe in myself as a player again," Korn said. "I finally started to enjoy other things. I was a happier person.

"The horrible stuff that went wrong at Marshall and Clemson affected me off the field. I just wasn't a happy dude to be around."

During his senior season, North Greenville qualified for the Division II playoffs for the first-time in school history. The Crusaders won two playoff games before falling to Delta State in the quarterfinals.

Korn completed 178 of 289 passes for 2,525 yards with 27 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He rushed 139 times for 462 yards and seven scores.

For the first-time in school history, North Greenville finished with a winning record in consecutive seasons.

"I'm just very appreciative of Jamey Chadwell just taking a chance on me, because there weren't too many people on the entire planet that would have given me a chance to play quarterback, at that point," Korn said.

He added, "It's just such a special memory I'm going to have playing with those guys at North Greenville. There are so many special guys in that locker room. We didn't play in front of 80,000 fans. We didn't play on ESPN…I appreciate so much those guys welcoming me and accepting me."

Korn's playing career isn't over. For the next month, he'll be throwing with former Clemson teammates Xavier Dye, Marquan Jones and Chad Diehl in preparation for the March 8 pro day in Clemson.

Whether it's the NFL, Canada or indoors, Korn wants a chance to prove that he's the quarterback so many thought he had a chance to be at Clemson.

"To picture that, from two years ago, about ready to say no more football – how the last two years went and being able to say I'm going to be able to compete on pro day, that's still just an amazing feeling to me," Korn said. "I'd love to play Canadian. Arena, we'll have to see what happens."

After his football playing days are over, Korn hopes to stay close to the game.

"This past summer, I just started thinking about it. That would be something I'd be interested in, to go into college coaching… I feel like I could really help out, to make sure what happened to me doesn't happen to another kid," he said.

And any of the ill will he had because of how things transpired at Clemson eased over time.

"There was no need for a messy, nasty breakup when I left Clemson. Everybody did what they possibly could to help me out. It was just one of those things, it ended up that it didn't work out," Korn said. "Everybody wanted me to succeed. Everybody wanted to see me do well."

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