Here are some extras from a Wednesday interview with Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn and his mom, Tracie.
When he was young, Adrian Clayborn had the nerve problems stemming from Erb’s Palsy. This held him out of contact sports until the seventh grade. That and he was too big and didn’t make weight in for the Junior Football League, part of the Matthews Dickey Boys’ & Girls’ Club.
“He was a big baby (11.5 pounds), so he was a little bigger,” Tracie said. “Sometimes, they put those kids on diets. He would’ve had to lose too much. If it was a couple pounds, then that would’ve been OK, but it wasn’t. He was always a big boy. He wasn’t fat, he was just big.”
In the JFL, his brother, James, was QB. His sister, Crystal, was a cheerleader. Adrian was a reluctant ballboy.
“It was kind of sad because Adrian couldn’t play and his brother was playing,” Tracie said. “He’s running around with the football wanting to play, you know, when they practice with the other kids. They would go out there and practice and the other kids would play around with the football. He’s looking like he really wanted to be out there, but couldn’t.”
Tracie and Rick Clayborn allowed their son to play basketball and baseball, but it was football that had their son’s attention. The family spent quite a few Thanksgivings in Florida when James played in JFL national tournaments.
“I just wanted to get out there and start playing sports, a real sport, not baseball,” Adrian said, not really kidding. “It was nice to be out there, finally, and start playing sports with my classmates.”
You can see the T-shirt here, with Tracie Clayborn sporting it at the Orange Bowl version of the Hawkeye Huddle. You can see it, you can’t buy it.
“A friend of mine made it for me and it was just a one-time deal,” she said. “They’re not going to sell them. People have been coming up to me, ‘Where can I get that T-shirt?’ It’s not for sale, special made, one of a kind.”
Probably shouldn’t even write about the sweatshirt that has a similar version of Clayborn’s sack of Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier. Yeah, one-of-a-kind, too.
“Oh, the sweatshirt,” she said. “Same people. Also special made, one of a kind.”
Credit Iowa assistant coach Eric Johnson, he of the Twitter account that sends recruiting reporters (including me) scurrying, for bringing Clayborn to Iowa and, really, opening the Avenue of the Saints connecting Iowa City to St. Louis. He also brought in wide receivers Marvin McNutt and Paul Chaney Jr.
“He was persistent, I can say that,” Clayborn said of Johnson’s pursuit. “He just kept calling and calling and sending letters. He was selling me the real deal. He wasn’t trying to sell me the corn, he sold the players, just like we do now. Sell the players, coach Ferentz and stuff like that.”
Freshmen Don Shumpert and linebacker Christian Kirksey, St. Louis natives, joined the Hawkeyes this fall.
“A lot of good players down there people don’t know about,” Clayborn said. “I think coach Johnson figured it out couple years back, that there are players down there. Get them out of Big 12 country and get them up here.”
The Clayborns are genuinely annoyed by the agent activity.
If it was fun at first, the novelty has worn off, especially with runners.
“Runners, those are the people you don’t want to talk to,” Adrian said. “If you’re going to talk to an agent, you want to talk to the guy running the company.”
Who is a runner?
“Depends on who the company hires. It could be a student, could be a woman, could be anybody,” he said. “It could be an agent’s marketing person.”
The basic NCAA rule with athletes and agents is rooted in common sense. Iowa addresses it with its athletes.
“Coach Ferentz sat us down couple times and talked about it,” Clayborn said. “He had a meeting in the spring with the parents. You don’t need that many meetings. Pretty much don’t accept anything, financially, and you’ll be fine. You can listen to them all you want. There’s nothing against that, just keep your distance.”
Yes, Clayborn has heard from agents you’v heard of. “They know who I am.”
One thing Adrian and Tracie have learned so far, you have to say what you mean with these people.
“You have tell them how you feel. You can’t beat around the bush with them,” he said. “They take that as a weakness or an opportunity to keep pushing, you have to tell them you’re not interested or don’t want to talk to them right now.”
Tracie Clayborn didn’t like how the cabbie incident turned out, with her son being arrested. But she understood the
sting of the racial slur that set it off.
She had first-hand experience.
“That’s hard. I’ve been in that situation before, without getting in trouble,” she said. “I’ve had someone say that to me on my job. They fired the person and that made me feel better, but still, that’s a hard pill to swallow.
“For no reason. To just come out of the blue and have someone say that to you, someone you don’t even know, and this was my third day on the job. It’s hard. He went through it, learned from it and it won’t happen again. It’s a learning experience. You grow from it, you learn from things. We all make mistakes. No one’s perfect.”
I asked Clayborn about his relationship with Kirk Ferentz. He described the arc.
“I’ve dealt with him a lot in the past couple years,” Clayborn said. “Freshman year, I was kind of scared to talk to him. I was a freshman and he was the head coach. It was kind of like, hi and hi. As the years go on, and probably every senior can say this, you get to know him better as you age in the program. Same for position coaches. Coach K (D-line coach Rick Kaczenski) and I are a lot closer than when he first got the job.”
Same for Tracie.
“He came down to visit, but I had a closer relationship with coach Johnson,” she said. “As the years go on, you get to know coach Ferentz. I don’t think I’d want to have another coach for my son. He’s a pretty good guy. Always there for you. If I call him, he calls me right back.”
Clayborn moved into his own apartment this season. He likes it quiet, so, you can probably understand, he’s not really big on Iowa City’s Ped Mall.
“I just try to stay out of that place. That place is a jungle,” he said. “If I go downtown or anywhere, like WalMart, it’s hard to get through there. Most of the people – except maybe the drunk people downtown – they aren’t rude. They give me space.”
He doesn’t have a girlfriend. Didn’t get too TMZ here, but thought it was interesting.
“You have to be smart. You have to put yourself with the right group of people,” he said. “I like hanging out with women, but you have to be around the good ones.”
“I just hope he uses good judgment with girls,” she said.
Best friend on the team?
“My best friend, I’d probably say Donnie Nordman (wide receiver from Hopkinton),” Clayborn said. “We hang out a lot. He’s just a cool dude. He’s laid back, just like I am. We hang out. He’s real cool.”
Clayborn lived a few years with, yes, wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos.
“There’s always excitement,” Clayborn said. “That was a learning experience. He was a cool dude. We had fun. I like everybody on our team. No bad eggs really.”
What’s gameday like for Tracie?
“Sometimes, I get nervous and I sit there and pray,” she said. “Like at the end of games, especially last year. I’ll just sit and say a little prayer.
“The beginning of the game, people always ask me why I go in so early. I want to see them come on the field. I want to see everything. The beginning is always interesting, especially the student section. When they run down and fall down those bleachers. When he first started up here, I didn’t know about the students. I was like in the middle. I was walking through when they opened the gates to let them in. I almost got run over.”
For Adrian? It’s all about running out of that tunnel.
“Freshman year, you’re more in awe,” he said. “Now, it’s even more of a sensation. It means more. There’s more on the line. You know what’s coming. You’re going to be out there every play.”
When the players wave their arms to get you up, get up.
“Third downs, when you’re tired and out of breath, you see the crowd get up, when you life them up or whatever, that gets you pumped,” he said.
Clayborn will graduate with degrees in recreation management and entrepreneurship in business.
He said he’s always had good grades. His only academic scare was “Gender in Society.”
“There were about 300 women and three guys. It was interesting,” he said. “We got bashed every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We looked at each other everyday. Underneath the class in the catalog, it read ‘women’s studies.’ We didn’t read the fine print.”