CHICAGO — The story blipped nationally. The headline was so juicy, of course it was going to go national.
Woman stalks football player.
Not just any football player. We’re talking Adrian Clayborn, a 6-foot-3, 283-pound all-American defensive end, an excellent defensive end. He’s a walking headline for the things he does on the field, which included 11.5 quarterback sacks last season.
He made such an impression on a Penn State offensive lineman last season that he made Clayborn the background on his cellphone.
The tendency is to laugh off the stalker headline. Big-time college football player. Woman with an infatuation.
Clayborn never laughed. Not once.
“She got obsessed with me a little bit,” he said Tuesday during Big Ten media days.
He said it started months before the Hawkeyes’ Oct. 8 game against Arkansas State, when Brittney Mears was arrested for harrassment. According to a criminal complaint, Mears, then 22, sat in the first row behind the Iowa bench and repeatedly called out Clayborn’s name throughout the first three quarters.
The police report said Clayborn, a defensive end, became “distracted and annoyed” by Mears’ actions during the game. She was removed from the stadium and charged with third-degree harassment, according to the report.
“It was four or five months leading up to the game,” Clayborn said. “It eventually had to get dealt with.”
Mears was convicted on the harassment charge last December. She was sentenced to 30 days in jail, at which time the judge also extended an order barring her for contacting Clayborn for five years.
Not a laughing matter.
Clayborn called the police with “every episode.” According to court documents, Mears was given a warning for harassment June 2009 for driving past Clayborn’s place of work while staring at him. In July 2009, documents say, she sent a vulgar text message to Clayborn’s phone.
Clayborn said he hasn’t heard from Mears since the Arkansas State incident.
“It was scary,” Clayborn said, “dealing with that and not knowing what a person wants to do to you, as far as like violence or anything. It was scary. It wasn’t like a fun deal. I had a stalker and something had to be done about it.”
So, you want to be an Iowa football player?
In these parts, the Hawkeyes are the Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Cubs wrapped into one.
Coach Kirk Ferentz would rather leave out the Cubs in that equation, but he gets the point. The Hawkeyes, the intense focus of such devotion, are a little bit vulnerable in this arena.
“When I was here in 1981, I used to tell recruits, people in Sioux City know who the backup right guard is,” Ferentz said. “Nobody knows who the backup right guard is and this was before the internet, back in 1981.”
The Hawkeyes are visible. They know that. Ferentz isn’t complaining. There’s good and bad. Ferentz pointed out their 11-day stay in South Beach last January during the Orange Bowl, but the mania can lift players and run with them if they’re not properly grounded.
Players’ bad behavior is dealt with. Ferentz announced the suspensions of running back Jewel Hampton and defensive end Broderick Binns for alcohol incidents this summer.
But Ferentz can’t control fans’ behavior, the uncontrollable variable. He can have a say, but not totally control players’ interactions with fans.
He cautions moderation in social media. He doesn’t ban players, but he would, if it were a realistic notion.
“I think it’s potentially dangerous stuff,” Ferentz said. “There are so many good things about it and I appreciate that and understand that, but you keep hearing all these negatives.
“What affects us as a program concerns me first and foremost, but down the road, too, you hear about people doing things that are potentially damaging for future employment. . . . All of us make mistakes, but I think if you’re in that 18-to-20-year age group, you’re not thinking really globally about some things. It’s a long life out there.”
Quarterback Ricky Stanzi has a policy.
“I try to stay away, from everybody,” he said.
Stanzi said he basically runs his Facebook page so no one steals his name and does something inflammatory. He’s seen seven or eight fake Ricky Stanzi’s on Facebook, but he keeps his going enough to let people know his account is really his.
“I don’t do many status updates,” Stanzi said. “I see people post that they just got up and walked their dog. And I have to read that because I have to get on this page because someone is going to impersonate me. It’s a snowball effect.”
Stanzi said the stalking incident was a tough situation that Clayborn handled well and he was glad he’s never had an incident in that realm. He sees it as a cautionary tale. You can read a blitz and throw a touchdown pass. You can’t control obssession.
“There is so much you can’t control,” he said. “You can’t control if someone takes a picture of you at a bar and you have a beer in your hand. Most of us are over 21, we can have a beer if we want. If someone is going to make a big deal out of it, that’s there own thing.
“You have to try to keep yourself out of those situations and be careful of who takes your picture. But still, you can’t control it.”
Stanzi has had his picture taken in a bar setting with a beer in his hand. They’ve been something he agreed to and controlled, so they were OK.
“You have to have some fun with it, you have to stay sane,” Stanzi said. “You have to understand that this is part of it. There are going to be some people who go crazy with it. There is going to be some stuff. There are going to be people who make up Facebook profiles for you.
“You just have to deal with it. It’s part of this life.”