Rated as a two-star by Scout.com, he had just four scholarship offers when he commited to Clemson in December 2005.
And none were from the SEC, Big Ten nor Big East and just one came from the ACC (Clemson). The other three were from the MEAC, though: South Carolina State, Winston Salem State and Hampton.
Almost five years later, Hairston's a preseason All-ACC first team member and an NFL Draft prospect.
"It means a lot. Being able to work hard and see your dreams come closer and closer to reality is a pretty big deal," he said. "Right now, I'm just enjoying the ride and working as hard as I can and be the best I can for the team."
Even Hairston had a hard time believing that he'd be playing big-time Division I football.
"I was just trying to be better than everyone else when I was playing high school ball. I was going to see what came and make the best of my opportunity, wherever I was going to be," he said. "If I went to South Carolina State, Winston Salem State or Hampton, I was going to work hard."
Clemson offensive guards and centers coach Brad Scott and then defensive line coach Marion Hobby evaluated and offered Hairston on Wednesday of the Shrine Bowl practice week. The offer came in that night after practice before the commitment was made about an hour later.
"I called my mom, talked to her for a while. I talked to my uncle, I believe. I made a few other phone calls to people close to me," Hairston said. "Then I called coach Scott back and told him I wanted to be a Tiger."
A career in the NFL would have been attainable, but a lot harder to come by at a MEAC school. But Hairston believed it would have been a lot harder to come by.
"It's a whole lot easier at Clemson, getting all of the recognition, TV time, great coaches, high-caliber everything around here," he said.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is proud of how Hairston's developed himself over the past offseason.
"I'm proud how he's worked with his body. He's not going to be doing any underwear commercials anytime soon, but I will tell you this, that sucker looks good," Swinney said.
Swinney also offered some very heady praise for the senior left tackle.
"He's a very, very good football player. I mean a very good player," Swinney said. "He's kind of the (C.J.) Spiller of our bunch up front. I'm just excited. He's our only senior starter and he's got a great future in front of him."
From two-star to future pro?
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