GLASSBORO - A high volume of South Jersey traffic sees itself departing from Route 55 via Exit 50 to Route 322 en route to historic Glassboro on a daily basis. The small borough in Gloucester County is commonly known as the home of Rowan University.
In fact, it’s so commonly known as that, that it often overshadows the noteworthy amount of athletic talent that has been produced from the summit city.
As one makes their way eastbound down Route 322, Heritage’s Dairy Store (a staple of South Jersey) can been seen to the left, followed by off-campus housing and then a small shopping center featuring local landmarks Bagel Express Mini Mart and Ciconte’s Pizzeria, before crossing the railroad tracks into the heart of the town.
Following the railroad tracks, one may see a plethora of college students flooding the sidewalks on both sides of Route 322 before reaching a notorious traffic circle in the center of town surrounded by businesses and more student-living facilities.
The travel through the historic portion of Glassboro nears a conclusion at Landmark Americana Bar and Grill on the corner of Route 322 and North Main Street.
It just so happened that IMG Academy football product Keon Sabb etched his name into the Glassboro history books at Landmark Americana on Saturday afternoon.
Sabb, the top-ranked athlete in the class of 2022 and the seventh ranked player nationally via 247Sports, announced his commitment to Clemson. Family, friends and community members were present at Landmark Americana to see the Glassboro native pick Clemson over Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Oregon, Penn State and Texas A&M.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Sabb said. “Growing up, watching them — it’s just ridiculous now. Me getting a chance to go on the field and this is going to be me in a few years. Kids are going to be dreaming like I was.”
Sabb was born and raised in Glassboro and played football at Glassboro High School for two seasons before playing a season at neighboring Williamstown High School.
Despite taking his talents to Bradenton, Florida for his final year of his high school career, there was no other place Sabb wanted to make the biggest decision of his life thus far.
“These are people I grew up around that always watched me (and) always supported me,” Sabb said. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing (my commitment) at like IMG or somewhere where none of my true family or true people could actually support me. It was really important to do it around where it’s walking distance for some people and everyone can get here.”
The spotlight hasn’t been as overwhelming to Sabb as it might have been to the average person. The constant travel and fast-paced lifestyle of a high-profile recruit hasn’t caused Sabb to miss out on his childhood. The journey has truly been a dream come true.
“It’s always been fun,” Sabb said. “Meeting all these new people — you see these coaches on TV and you get a chance to meet them and they’re truly invested in you. So it’s been fun. I feel like I matured a lot, going down to IMG and living on my own. I feel like my parents, my family, my dad, especially, definitely prepared me for this moment.”
Sabb’s discussions with the Tigers’ coaching staff separated the six-time defending ACC champions from the rest of the pack. The Glassboro native talked to defensive coordinator/associate head coach/linebackers coach Brent Venables on a daily basis. According to Sabb, the talks were very personable and sincere.
“It was really really in-depth,” Sabb said. “They just made me feel like family. Me and Venables talked every day, maybe sometimes twice a day. Me and (safeties) coach (Mickey) Conn talked everyday and coach (Dabo) Swinney, we talk at least once or twice a week. Them showing that much love and the D-coordinator talking to me everyday — that kind of put them at a high standard.”
Sabb was also awarded a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Coach Swinney’s residency. The two bonded instantly and even battled each other on the basketball court.
“It was crazy how genuine he was,” Sabb said. “Me and him ended up playing one-on-one. There were a lot of other recruits there and he took his time to play me one-on-one. He just made me feel like he was here for me. I really loved that.”
Based on previous discussions, Sabb believes he will be dedicating himself to the defensive side of the ball, despite his proficiency on both sides of the ball on the high school level. The class of 2022 athlete has also garnered comparisons to former Clemson standout Isaiah Simmons. Simmons was the eighth overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2020 NFL Draft.
“As of right now, they’re talking to me as playing defense,” Sabb said. “Really like an Isaiah Simmons type of guy. More so in the defensive backfield, not really as much as a linebacker. I’ll still be in the free safety range, strong safety, but I’ll be all around the defense.”
Keon’s father, Antoine Sabb, is a well-respected figure in the community thanks to his contributions to the Glassboro Midget Football program and the Books and Basketball Academy. Antoine’s fatherly instincts also agreed that Clemson was the right fit.
“We were comfortable with Swinney. We had a long conversation at his house, and ultimately as a family, we felt that was the best fit for him,” Keon’s father said. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint — a lot of peaks and valleys. He’s gotten a lot better as the years went on, but his love for the game is what supersedes anything. He wanted to play at a national level and that’s why he went down to IMG.”
“I’m excited for him,” his father continued. “He’s going to be an early-grad, so he’s going to get in (Clemson) in January and compete for an opportunity to get on the field right away.”
Sabb will also join IMG Academy teammate Jihaad Campbell at Clemson. Campbell played football at Timber Creek Regional High School in Erial before transferring to the first-class program in south Florida.
Less than a year ago, the two played against each other when Sabb was at Williamstown and Campbell was at Timber Creek. Williamstown silenced the Chargers 21-0.
Now, the two are teammates and have an inseparable bond. A bond that is only going to grow exponentially.
“It’s very special,” Campbell said. “We created a very unique bond, especially in Jersey, and now at IMG. And now even better because we’re about to go to Clemson together. I feel as though our bond and our connection is really gonna grow just from us being around each other.”
Sabb and Campbell’s commitments to Clemson made a huge statement about South Jersey football.
“It’s really a blessing,” Campbell said. “Dreams really do come true. You just gotta put the work in and stay focused and just stay close with your family and God.”
The borough of Glassboro is no stranger to professional level talent. Keon’s father played basketball with former Indianapolis Colts linebacker and Super Bowl XLI champion Gary Brackett at Glassboro High School. He also knows former Philadelphia Eagles running back and Super Bowl LII champion Corey Clement, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Juwan Johnson and former Rutgers and NFL defensive end George Johnson — all of which are Glassboro High School graduates.
For the Sabb family, it’s an honor to continue the rich tradition of football in Glassboro and represent the community in a significant way.
“It’s huge, man,” Antoine said. “I played with Gary Brackett, I know Corey, Juwan and George. There’s a lot of pride in Glassboro. (Keon is) one of those and we represent well. We’re excited to be able to come from here and be able to make something. The community’s behind him, hopefully he’ll make them proud. I’m proud. He’s a hard worker, a really good kid, a good student, a great young man. He earned it. It’s a special thing to be from Glassboro.”