The once-wunderkind quarterback from Oaks Christian High in Thousand Oaks/Westlake Village has been on the NFL’s radar since his days as star pupil for renowned quarterbacks coach Steve Clarkson. . .when he was in the 8th grade. After shattering nearly every prep record in California, he headed to Notre Dame with much fanfare (and extremely spiky hair).
Projecting to be a first-round pick since the moment he stepped on campus, the turmoil
never really abated, from dealing with the future of his coach to his arrest to the ‘black eye’ incident. Additionally, questions about his maturity, whining and overall leadership further dragged down his reputation, leading to a downward spiral in his draft stock, eventually landing with the Carolina Panthers as the 48th overall pick in the NFL Draft.
Now YKI has been watching Clausen very carefully for the greater part of six years now, and though the questions about maturity are valid on the surface, understanding his background helps immensely in explaining why he will be both valuable and a winner for the Panthers.
First, he’s the brother of two quarterbacks with high-level playing experience, and growing up in that milieu of success provides a strong foundation for stability and growth as an individual and an athlete. The family is also very supportive and has provided focus and strength for Clausen throughout his highly-publicized upbringing. Though he’s not exactly subdued – what quarterback isn’t a bit cocky? – his decision-making has been sound, and the two incidents in question (illegal transportation of alcohol, punched outside of a bar) are literally normal collegiate Boys will be Boys stuff.
Next and perhaps most importantly, Clausen is focused, driven and has a track record for success. Growing up with the intense scrutiny he’s dealt with since his days at middle school; being dissected mentally, physically, athletically & otherwise has prepped him for the pros better than any QB in this year’s draft. For goodness sake, the future of his Coach’s career depended on his performance, and his legacy of comeback wins are testament to his fortitude, will and clutch ability.
Upon meeting and having a discussion with the soon-to-be-Rookie, I was very impressed by his poise – though not surprised. He’s been dealing with hangers-on, suck-ups, media-types and other annoyances for so long that he’s comfortable in his own skin, even when approached in unsolicited fashion.
Our exchange was short, but he was respectful, made consistent eye contact, and did not seem bothered. In fact, he seemed very genuinely pleased that he was recognized (he was decidedly not swarmed, or even recognized in Charlotte-Douglas airport, nor on the plane – it was only after landing back home at LAX that a team of local high-schoolers surrounded him as he exited the plane), and that YKI expressed interest in his future & situation.
In short, it seems that the pundits are right – the Roethelisberger Fallout/Tebow Effectsent executives running for cover when dealing with this L.A. ‘bad boy.’
The grace and class in which Clausen handles himself is exemplary, and Marty Hurney & John Fox will be able to clean up those tears from releasing Jake Delhomme with the used game jerseys of defensive backs that Clausen leaves in the wake of his beautiful deep ball.
Clausen may have received the short end of the income stick in this situation, but he landed in a great organization which now has an excellent future.
Kudos to the Panthers and best of luck to Mr. Clausen. Now if he can only do something about those dang spikes on his blond melon. . .