Former Clemson defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and his family avoided tragedy while watching the NFL Draft on Friday night, as his childhood home of 17 years caught fire, leaving half of the home burned. No family members were injured.
Jarrett, who was selected Saturday by the Atlanta Falcons with the first pick in the fifth round (No. 137), said that as he waited to hear his name called Friday, he and a gathering of 50 people noticed an unfamiliar smell.
Jarrett, along with other family members, ran to the kitchen. Moments later, they noticed smoke coming from upstairs and saw the back wall in one of the game rooms was engulfed in flames.
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"Everyone was yelling, ‘Call 911. Get everybody out of the house!’ " Jarrett’s mother, Elisha, told FOXSports.com Saturday, shortly after he was picked by the Falcons. "It happened so fast."
Ten minutes later, responders arrived, but by that time the entire left side of the house had been burned. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but some of Jarrett’s football memorabilia was lost. While the cause of the fire has not been determined, the family believes an electrical fire sparked the blaze.
"It was an unexplainable feeling," the 6-foot, 300-pound defensive lineman said. "It was hopelessness. It was disbelief. At that point I wasn’t thinking about the draft. There’s no feeling that describes watching a house burn. The important thing was everyone got out safe. We lost some things that we can’t get back, but for the most part it’s just material things and as a family we’re just happy to be safe.
"Throughout the night I kept an eye on the draft and that just got me even more down because I was projected to go in the second round. It was just frustration and disappointment, but with Atlanta taking me today it’s a blessing. It lifted my family’s spirits so high. Everything that was lost can be replaced, man. It’s a really special time for us."
Jarrett and his family watched the draft on Saturday at his cousin’s house in Covington, Ga., about 15 minutes away from their family home in Conyers.
"It’s heartbreaking, but we can get the house again and all of our family and friends are fine," Elisha said.
Jarrett, who starred at Clemson, grew up in the house that he’s called home off Bonds Lake Road for 20 years. He said many of his belongings were destroyed in the blaze.
The Falcons traded up eight spots to select Jarrett to get the first pick of the fifth round. Spokesman Brian Cearns said the team did not know about the fire until after Jarrett was drafted.
Jarrett, who’s the son of former Falcons star linebacker Jessie Tuggle, said the Falcons promised to send clothing to the family.
The Falcons dealt the Minnesota Vikings fifth- and sixth-round picks to acquire the top spot of the fifth round and take Jarrett, who teamed with pass rusher Vic Beasley, whom Atlanta selected with the No. 8 overall pick Thursday, during the past four years at Clemson.