May 9, 2011

Clear-cut choice motivated Vols signee

MEMPHIS --- There have been a number of infamous snubs through the years, athletes who for various reasons didn't make their prep squads but later went to garner acclaim.

Recent University of Tennessee signee Cameron Clear, an athletic and muscular 6-foot-6, 265-pound four-star tight end, is working on his own similarly improbable story. The kid who had virtually his pick of college programs vying for his signature on signing day was cut from his middle school team at his Memphis school.

"I didn't make the team my sixth-grade team. I transferred after I didn't make their team, and I went to (a different middle school) and I made their team and I've been playing ever since," said Clear, who picked the Vols over a number of other programs including Alabama, Auburn, Duke and Notre Dame. "That coach I had in sixth grade when I didn't make the team, I still see him a lot. I smile and shake my head. He just says I should have stayed around with him. My cousin, Lonnie Ballentine (who played as a 17-year-old true freshman last season), he plays at Memphis, and he didn't make the team either in sixth grade."

A year later Clear would be dunking a basketball and while he enjoyed hoops, Clear would continue to see football as an avenue to college. He eventually developed a skill-set that had programs clamoring for his signature.

"Size, for one, is a strength," Clear said. "I think I have good speed for my size, great hands and athleticism."

Clear, however, hardly is content. Preparing to arrive in Knoxville June 1 for the opening of first session summer classes the ensuing day, the graduating Memphis Central standout is working four to five days a week with a training regimen to optimize his chances for early playing time.

"I'm doing ladder drills, running with a parachute and bungee cords," Clear explained. "Sometimes it's out here at school or a lot of times (at a nearby training center). It's gotten easier because I'm fairly used to it, but sometimes it's difficult running with the parachute."

Nonetheless it's part of the process for Clear, who is clear in his intention of garnering early playing time.

"I'm just trying to improve my speed and agilities, get faster and prepare for the next level," said Clear, who expects to wear either No. 85 or 88 for the Vols. "Right now, I want to come in and earn a spot."

And while he's already studying the plays drawn up by UT offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, Clear similarly is preparing to study a different blueprint in his academic pursuits.

"I like to draw. That's what I'm majoring in, advertising and minoring in graphic design. Still images, anything," Clear said.

Perhaps, if Clear continues to develop into a complete player at the college player, he'll likewise draw a parallel to those other athletes who overcame initially failing to make the team.

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