Team Player: John Clay

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Photo: UW Sports Information

Photo: UW Sports Information

Whether he’s carrying the ball to drive the Badger football team toward a win or helping troubled kids achieve a better life, John Clay x’12 is always running toward a goal.

The running back was heavily recruited out of high school. He won most-valuable-player honors three times for Racine, Wisconsin’s Washington Park High School team, and major college coaches clamored for his services.

This “was a blessing not many people get the opportunity to experience,” Clay recalls. “It made me feel good knowing I was doing things on the field people wanted to see.”

He chose to attend Wisconsin, and Badger fans saw plenty to like during his freshman season in 2008. He was named the UW’s Rookie of the Year after playing in all thirteen games, scoring nine touchdowns, and racking up 884 yards — seventh most in the Big Ten. That’s not bad for someone who says he’s still trying to catch up to the speed of the college game.

“Everything happens so fast,” Clay says, noting that he’s had to learn not to overreact to the pace of play. “I had to be more patient, instead of making something happen right away.”

“I did what I needed to establish myself this past season. Now it’s about going up the ladder.”

Overall, his performance was one of the bright spots in an otherwise difficult 2008 campaign. This is a new year, though, with new chances for Clay to lead the team. “I did what I needed to establish myself this past season,” he emphasizes. “Now it’s about going up the ladder instead of falling down.”

When it’s time to hang up the cleats for good, Clay’s goals won’t end. They’ll just change, as he wants to improve the lives of urban children. “I’m looking to work with kids, and motivate them to stay off the streets and stay out of trouble,” he says.

Published in the Fall 2009 issue

Tags: Athletics, Students

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