Somewhere out on the Internet, there’s a Santa Claus picture with Adrian Clayborn’s face digitally inserted under the red furry hat.
Clayborn laughed about it during a Monday interview.
“I’ve seen the picture floating around, me in a Santa Claus suit,” the Iowa defensive end said with a laugh. “It’s funny. I don’t take it too seriously.”
And then he gave Hawkeyes fans a nice Christmas present. The junior announced he’ll stay in school instead of entering the NFL draft in April.
He considered it, and he probably should have. He was fourth in the Big Ten in sacks (9.5) and tackles for loss (18). That’s 20th and 14th, respectively, nationally.
Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan and Clayborn will be the top defensive linemen next season. Kerrigan led the conference with 13 sacks. The Big Ten’s other two top D-linemen this year, Michigan’s Brandon Graham and Wisconsin’s O’Brien Schofield, are seniors.
Clayborn is rated as high as a second- of third-round pick on some NFL draft Web sites.
“Just going through the process,” Clayborn said when asked what triggered the decision. ”It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot. (Former Hawkeye running back) Shonn Greene helped me out a lot with it. He went through the process last year. And talking to my mom (Tracie).
“It just came down to ... I think I could be ready for the NFL, but I just don’t want to leave yet. I still have stuff to prove in college.”
Last week, defensive coordinator Norm Parker tipped his hand on the counsel he’s given his players. It was a decisive “stay in school.”
“It’s to their advantage to be a year bigger and stronger and faster and more mature,” Parker said.
Clayborn said he took Parker’s advice to heart.
“I’m not going to sit down and think I’ve accomplished that much this year,” he said. “I’ve done some things, but I can get better. Hopefully, I will get better.”
The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft is Jan. 15. Iowa offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga and cornerback Amari Spievey are also on the NFL radar. Bulaga, who earned various All-American honors in the last two weeks, is listed as a first rounder by some Internet sites. ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper lists Spievey as the No. 4 junior cornerback.
Clayborn said he has no idea what Bulaga and Spievey might be thinking. Spievey was supposed to attend Monday’s media session but wasn’t there.
“I haven’t been talking to them. That’s their decision,” Clayborn said. “They didn’t ask me about mine, so ...”
At last Saturday’s basketball game, Clayborn received the loudest ovation from the Carver-Hawkeye Arena crowd. He signed autographs for youngsters, something he seemed to really enjoy.
“It’s fun to see the expressions on kids’ faces when they see the Hawks,” Clayborn said. “It’s not a burden. I’ll sign autographs for as many kids as I can. I like doing that kind of stuff for kids. I know that’s the highlight of the day. I like seeing that stuff. It’s good.
“... I think a lot of guys see the money and run for it. I’m not too worried about that. My thing is I love football and I think I can enjoy another year here.”By the way, the Santa beard is coming off after the Orange Bowl.