South Jersey’s Clement Wants Other Young People to ‘Attack their Dreams’
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - From the first day of rookie camp through Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis, no Philadelphia Eagles player improved more than Glassboro native Corey Clement.
A bell cow at the University of Wisconsin after emerging from the shadow of Melvin Gordon, Clement went undrafted for a couple of reasons: a fight that he initially lied to his coaches about, along with a skill set that didn't project all that well to the next level.
In the Big Ten, he was a tough, physical runner at 5-foot-10 and 220 pounds, dominating to the tune 1,375 yards and 15 touchdowns.
On film, however, the burst wasn't there to handle NFL linebackers in the same kind of fashion and forget about catching the football out of the backfield or picking up the blitz. The Badgers, like many college offenses, just didn't ask their backs to do that kind of thing all that often.
The Eagles bit on Clement as an undrafted free agent, largely because of what Joe Douglas describes as their "cohabitation matrix." In this case, the team's vice president of team security, Dom DiSandro, has known Clement for years and vouched for his character and work ethic.
That got Clement into the door at the NovaCare Complex and what happened next might get "Big Dom" as he is affectionately called a second career in Douglas' personnel department.
Like any undrafted rookie not much was expected of Clement, who was buried on the depth chart behind veterans Darren Sproles and LeGarrette Blount, as well as young draft picks like Wendell Smallwood and Donnel Pumphrey.
The first thing the Eagles told Clement to do was lose some weight to garner more quickness. From there it was to improve as a pass receiver and pass blocker and do what every bottom-of-the-roster player is asked to do, embrace special teams.
Clement did all of the above, lapping the pedigrees of Smallwood and Pumphrey and then taking advantage of a season-ending injury to Sproles to carve out a niche in the team's RB-by-committee approach.
Fast forward to February and the kid who couldn't catch a cold in the offseason was confounding Bill Belichick and the Patriots' defense by catching the football like he was Christian McCaffrey or Alvin Kamara.
On Sunday, Clement was back in Glassboro discussing that work ethic as a Super Bowl champion and commencement speaker at Rowan University.
"A year ago this week I was wearing a cap and gown and earning my bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin," Clement said inside Coach Richard Wackar Stadium where he once dominated in as South Jersey's all-time leading high school rusher. "My future was uncertain.
"After playing football and completing my degree, I was expected to be a third- or fourth-round pick. Everybody expected that. Me, my family, NFL scouts, the media and my teammates. The plan was to graduate and join the NFL team that wanted me, but that didn't happen. For whatever reason, I went undrafted. My dream since I was 5 years old. The dream that I worked toward. The dream that I promised my mom that would happen someday did not happen.
"I was devastated. Embarrassed. I felt like I let myself down and everybody else who loved and supported me down. After that, I wasn't sure what my path would be. But I began to realize that I couldn't control other people's opinions, I could only control how hard I worked."
Most of us will work our entire lives, some stacking together many accomplishments but few will be asked to be a commencement speaker.
Clement turned the trick at 23 all because he defined the one trait that guarantees accomplishment in any field: hard work.
"Going from an undrafted free agent to a Super Bowl champion didn't feel real to me," Clement said. "It still doesn't. But the path that got me here is very real.
"... I don't think life owes us anything. We earn what we get out of life. So as you graduate today, I hope you don't go into your careers afraid of the odds.
"Whether you want to find a cure for Parkinson's or bring running water to a village in Honduras or you want to be an entrepreneur or you want to be a filmmaker or a novelist or a musician or a teacher or a coach, I hope you'll attack your dream at full speed. Dive into things that are difficult."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Want more NFL? Check out John's deep dive to the Eric Reid collusion grievance over at GetMoreSports.com.