Clauss: Climbing Mountains Instead of Moving Them

Nov. 19, 2010

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in Hawk Talk Daily, the UI Athletics Department’s daily e-newsletter delivery free of charge each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To learn more about HTD, click HERE.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Jared Clauss was a member of the University of Iowa football program in 2000 when the Hawkeyes began their ascent as a Big Ten Conference power. Clauss was part of Kirk Ferentz’s first recruiting class and played defensive tackle when the Hawkeyes went from three victories in 2000 to 29 wins and three straight bowl games from 2001-03.

With his playing career completed, Clauss, 29, is partaking in a different type of climb. While at Iowa, the Des Moines, Iowa, native and the Hawkeyes metaphorically moved mountains by bringing the national spotlight to a program that last attended a bowl game in 1997. Now, instead of moving mountains, Clauss is climbing them. In June he traveled to Equador and completed a climb of just less than 20,000 feet. This spring he plans to conquer peaks in either Bolivia or Alaska.

At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, Clauss has shed nearly 65 pounds from his football playing frame. “It’s tough to climb when you weigh 300 pounds,” he said with a laugh.

Alpine climbing is Clauss’ specialty, although he also does rock and ice climbing. His interest was sparked when, as a youngster, his family would vacation in Colorado and go on hikes. At West Des Moines Valley High School, Clauss played football four years, but also participated in basketball (two years), track (one year) and baseball (two years) before graduating in 1999. He was drafted in the seventh round by the Tennessee Titans in 2004 after playing four seasons for the Hawkeyes, where he was twice named honorable mention all-Big Ten. Clauss spent four years in the NFL — two with the Titans, where he had 33 tackles and a sack — and two that included stops with the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders while dealing with injuries. When football ended, so did the satisfaction of chasing objectives.

“It’s tough to stay motivated when you’re in the gym working hard and there’s no goal,” Clauss said. “I’m never going to be a distance runner with this body, I’m a terrible fisherman, so I got involved with climbing.”

Clauss completed mountaineering classes in California and ice-climbing lessons in Alaska. Former Hawkeye punter Ryan Molinaro joined him for a rock climb in Nevada, but typically Clauss searches for travel companions. He said climbers seek each other out, have lunch, and familiarize each other on their experience level and time availability. Now he is among a group of four to six climbers (two are world-class) that routinely travels together.

“There aren’t many climbers in Iowa,” Clauss said. “You find out pretty quickly who else is involved in the scene.”

When his NFL career ended, Clauss returned to Des Moines where he works for the wealth management firm, UBS Financial Services.

“I love what I do, I love Des Moines and I love the people I work with,” Clauss said. “But sometimes I like to get away, challenge myself and see other parts of the world.”

“It’s tough to stay motivated when you’re in the gym working hard and there’s no goal. I’m never going to be a distance runner with this body, I’m a terrible fisherman, so I got involved with climbing.”
Jared Clauss

Clauss is finalizing the logistics for a climb over Thanksgiving weekend in Colorado.

“I usually get in the car, head west, hit a couple peaks and come home,” Clauss said.

And climbing gives him that aim he desperately craved after football. As a player, he said, concentration and preparation was needed for the annual progression from spring ball to fall camp to the regular season to the NFL combine. Climbing allows Clauss to seal that void.

“When you’re standing at the bottom of a mountain, why not see what’s on top?” Clauss said.

Clauss has completed climbs in Alaska, the Grand Tetons, the Rockies, Sierra Nevadas and the Cascades, and outside the United States in Peru and most recently Equador. His goal in Bolivia is a peak of 21 to 22,000 feet, but after that, the former Hawkeye said, “who knows?”

“Football teaches you a lot of skills and football was a blessing to me,” Clauss said. “This is a new chapter and a new challenge and I wanted to turn the page.”

A four-time academic all-conference selection and a two-time academic All-American, Clauss recorded 133 tackles (20 for a loss) and nine sacks as a Hawkeye. He offers an analogy between football and climbing.

“I don’t focus on looking at the summit the whole time. Instead, I focus on the next obstacle: a rock, a tree or a snow formation,” he said. “When you get there, find a new goal and before you know it, you’re looking down from the top. Like football, we couldn’t come in and go from one win to Big Ten champions immediately. We had to take small steps in between and accomplish smaller goals first. Our theme of `Break the Rock’ meant that it didn’t take one massive effort to crack it. Just like climbing, you don’t push hard once and get there, you keep putting one step in front of the next.”