Josh Harvey-Clemons beats adversity

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Excuse Josh Harvey-Clemons of Valdosta (Ga.) Lowndes if he bypasses team meals and sticks with cheese and crackers for the remainder of his time in San Antonio this week.

The uncommitted four-star linebacker, who sits No. 23 overall in the ESPNU 150, came down with food poisoning Tuesday and missed the day's practices at the U.S. All-American Bowl.

"I'm all right," he said. "I had a bacon cheeseburger, and I guess the food wasn't cooked. I wanted to practice today but they said I needed to stay hydrated."

It's not exactly how the top-rated player from the state of Georgia envisioned spending the day, nestled on a bench with a hoodie pulled loosely over his face. But he's overcome worse things in his life than a bad meal.

Nothing has been more trying than having both his parents pass away when he was young.

"My dad passed away when I was 6 or 7, and my mom passed away when I was 12 or 13," Harvey-Clemons said. "My dad had a heart attack, and my mom went into a coma and never came out."

As he speaks about his parents, one can see Harvey-Clemons tracing back to his fondest memories of them just by looking into his eyes.

"Just them coming to my basketball and football games," Harvey-Clemons said. "That's what I remember the most."

They'll both be at Saturday's game in spirit, and heavily on the mind of their son, who has dedicated his time playing football to them.

"When my mom was sick, I used to pray for her to at least see me graduate from high school," Harvey-Clemons said. "Of course that didn't happen, but I know she is proud of me and is watching over me. My whole career is dedicated to them.

"I think they would be real proud. My mom went to a junior college and my dad didn't go to college, so a lot of people tell me that, 'Your mom and dad would be really proud of you,' and I know they would. I'm doing this for them."

Sure, Harvey-Clemons' athletic abilities helped him get to this All-American game. He's the No. 2 outside linebacker in the nation and is being pursued by some of the top programs in the country. But the support of his family has been equally important.

"It was tough because I was living with my dad when he passed," Harvey-Clemons said. "Then I moved in with my grandmother and went to the city schools. Then I moved out to the country with my grandparents, which is my mom's dad, and stayed out there. Shortly after that my mom passed."

Before his mother passed away, his grandparents, Woodrow and Vanessa Clemons, voluntarily adopted him.

"It was a difficult time," said his cousin Anthony Hart. "But if you are a very close-knit family like our family is, we take care of each other. By him having great grandparents, he didn't miss a beat. It wasn't that much strain on him because they are great parents."

Harvey-Clemons is well aware of that.

"It was tough, but I have great family support, and they helped me overcome it," he said. "I am getting blessings now."

Which program he'll bless with his commitment has yet to be determined.

Florida, Florida State, Georgia and Louisville are the teams with the best chance at landing him. One school has an advantage over the others for the time being, though.

"It would probably be Florida right now because that is the school that I took my official [visit] to," he said. "They are probably leading right now because I haven't seen any others."

Don't fret, Bulldogs, Seminoles and Cardinals. Those visits are coming. He'll visit Georgia on Jan. 13, Florida State on Jan. 20 and Louisville after that.

Besides the question of where he might play, there's the matter of where he might play on the field. Harvey-Clemons is versatile enough to line up at a number of positions aside from outside linebacker.

"I can play outside linebacker and safety, but I also like having the ball in my hand," he said. "I just want to do whatever coach wants me to do wherever he wants me to play."

In the 2011 season, he recorded 105 tackles, three sacks and three interceptions, but also had 144 yards receiving and one touchdown and 159 yards rushing and three scores in a wing-T offense.

Florida and Georgia are recruiting him as an outside linebacker, but both programs have said they'd give him a chance on offense to see what he can do.

"We always knew he had a lot of potential to do great things on both sides of the ball," Hart said.

Harvey-Clemons might have a chance to showcase his offensive talents in the game. He received an offensive playbook, but hasn't spent time on that side yet.

Of course, he didn't have the chance to on Tuesday due to food poisoning. But that's nothing that a few cheese and crackers can't fix.

William Wilkerson covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation.