January 26, 2007

Clayton looks to the future

Thomas Clayton had little time to chat Thursday afternoon. Why, in less than three minutes, he had to attend a team meeting to listen to Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden. His head was spinning. It was somewhere between the clouds and the grounded reality that he could make a statement as one of eight running backs and as the Big 12 Conference's only skill-position player selected to the Senior Bowl.

This time last week, Clayton was training in Los Angeles for the NFL Combine, unaware his future would take an exciting, opportunistic twist Monday afternoon.

Turned out, Northern Illinois running back Garrett Wolfe couldn't make the trip to Saturday's 58th annual Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., due to injury.

Clayton received a phone call from his agent Monday at 4 p.m., who informed him Steve Hale, the Senior Bowl president and CEO, requested his presence at a pristine gathering to showcase the top 100 NFL Draft prospects.

Seven hours later, Clayton ditched Los Angeles and was on plane to Mobile.

By Wednesday, the 5-foot-10, 220-pound Clayton was in pads and uniform for the North squad, knocking off the rust, taking handoffs from Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith and busting through holes provided by an all-star offensive line.

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