Earlier last week former Clemson defensive lineman Grady Jarrett published a letter to the editor of The Tiger, Clemson's student run newspaper, thanking the fans for their support during his time at Clemson. It appeared to be a heartfelt missive thanking his coaches, teammates, and the fans for everything they did during his four years at Clemson.
On Friday night a Reddit post appeared saying that Jarrett's letter was extremely similar to a letter written by former Michigan State Trae Waynes. This led to a large amount of speculation about which player may have plagiarized from the other with most suspicion falling on Clemson DL Grady Jarrett. His letter was published almost a month after Trae Waynes and because of the similarities many people have begun to jump to a conclusion of plagiarism.
The truth is that Grady Jarrett did not plagiarize from Trae Waynes and neither did his representation. It turns out that both Grady Jarrett and Trae Waynes are both represented by the same agency, Athletes First. Though Jarrett originally signed with Element Sports after the season ended, he replaced them with Athletes First ahead of the Senior Bowl.
I had a chance to talk with Athletes First who represent Grady Jarrett and Trae Waynes while researching the story and the explanation is pretty simple. Both players had expressed a desire to thank their teammates, coaches, and the fans of their respective schools. Athlete's First then guided them through the process of thanking those who helped make their collegiate career special. The sentiment expressed in both letters is that of the players regardless of what any might assume.
It is not surprising that similarities might arise when both players have the same representation, but it doesn't mean plagiarism. Even Turn It In, the software used by the Reddit poster, does not say that a high similarity score means plagiarism, it has no way of knowing intent to plagiarize or that one writing piece was used to write another. It merely says the documents are similar.
Unfortunately some will still use this as an excuse to besmirch two players that are in the middle of a hectic process where scouts from 32 NFL teams are poking and prodding into every bit of their lives. The important thing is that both players had the desire to thank the people that made their college playing days memorable and they actually acted on that. Plenty of players just disappear from college without a second thought, never to return to the place that first put them on the road to success in the NFL, a place where they will always be remembered fondly despite what may occur in the harsh world of the NFL.
Instead of worrying about these players we should be celebrating them and thanking them for what they've done, they are an unusual breed in this day and age.