But Dean, a sophomore from Greenwood, never got down. He just kept practicing and waiting for the moment Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden would call on him to make a big kick.
Those kicks came in spades the Tigers’s 26-20 victory over N.C. State Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Dean booted four field goals, two extra points and like a machine, smoked all but one kickoff out of the back of the end zone for a touchback.
“I think (starting the season as a backup) made a difference,” said Dean, who is about as modest and unassuming as they come. “It was a humbling experience, definitely. As a kicker, sometimes you might need that. You just work hard and keep trying to get better every week.”
Improving is definitely something Dean has done since his arrival on campus last year.
Everyone knew Dean could absolutely kick the living fool out of the football. The problem was in his accuracy, which was erratic at best.
“The whole thing with Jad is, from where he was kicking last year to this fall, he is kicking a whole lot better,” said kicking coach Jack Hines. “He was solid but he just wasn’t refined and that’s why we started Furr in the first game. And Furr was solid, but he gave Jad a chance and Jad’s been six-for-six since that point. He’s mentally getting his mind right and he’s perfecting his technique and I’m really proud of him.”
On a day where Dean kicks four field goals to help give Clemson the win, the defense overshadows him by collecting six turnovers. But had it not been for Dean’s right foot, the turnovers would have been a moot point.
Dean, who had only attempted two previous field goals this season, nailed kicks from 47, 42, 36, and 21 yards out. He performed as though he was a grizzled veteran.
“Before every kick, I ask God to take my nerves away and luckily he did,” Dean said. “Once you get that first kick out of the way, there’s no butterflies.”
The 47-yard field goal Dean made would have been good from 60 yards out. But to Dean, they’re all the same. He takes the same approach to the long kicks as he does the short ones.
“You have to,” he said. “You want to try and kick a 60-yard field goal the same way you would an extra point. You don’t want to change your mechanics or anything because that’s when you get your duck-hooks. I try to kick everything the same.”
While his field goal exploits will get most of the attention, what will be lost on most is what he did on kickoffs, where he prevented N.C. State from returning all but one. All but two went out of the back of the end zone, forcing the Wolfpack to start at the 20.
And while that might be lost on the average fan, there’s at least one person who appreciates what Dean did.
“He was pretty excited there,” said Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. “I think he saw their kicker kick that ball pretty deep and that’s (Dean’s) territory. … He just kept kicking the damn thing out of the end zone. …
“He’s doing a heck of a job. I don’t think people understand how big of a weapon this is for us. To kick the kickoff out of the end zone with no return is awesome.”
There’s someone else besides Whitehurst that has taken notice of Dean’s accomplishments.
“He’s run with it since he’s had the chance,” Hines said. “And that’s the best way to put it.”