Adrian Clayborn: Respectful, Charming

Dec. 13, 2010

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

HOUSTON, Texas — Football players like Adrian Clayborn don’t show up in Iowa City, Iowa, very often. They also don’t appear frequently in Auburn, Ala., Clemson, S.C., or Dallas. As rare as it is to find an athlete of Clayborn’s caliber, it is equally difficult finding such a great individual.

When referring to the Iowa senior defensive end, there was a common theme from those in charge of the 41st Rotary Lombardi Award banquet Dec. 7-8 in Houston, Texas.

“Adrian is a well-rounded, respectful young man,” said Mike Ragusa, the hospitality host for Clayborn. “I’m very impressed with him. He’s charming to be around.”

“These are good players, but they’re even better individuals,” said John Harris of 1560 AM The Game. “These guys are great gentlemen and great young men. They are symbolic of all that is good in college football.”

Those sentiments were heard over and over and over at the Rotary Lombardi gathering. But they are the same opinions sensed by University of Iowa football fans for the past five years.

“I would like to thank everybody back in Iowa who supported me since I was a freshman,” Clayborn said after being introduced Wednesday at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

“The kids, the kids. They taught me so many things about life; it’s not just football, but it’s way more than that.”
UI senior Adrian Clayborn

It was a busy two days for the four finalists: Clayborn, eventual winner Nick Fairley of Auburn, Da’Quan Bowers of Clemson and Jake Kirkpatrick of Texas Christian. The journey turned out to be much more than football for Clayborn, a 6-foot-4, 285-pound terror from St. Louis. Clayborn was touched most by a visit to the Children’s Cancer Hospital at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. It was there where he observed real warriors, struggling for much more than a third-down defensive stop.

“The kids, the kids,” Clayborn said. “They taught me so many things about life; it’s not just football, but it’s way more than that.”

So for three hours, Clayborn posed for pictures, signed autographs and essentially injected energy and hope to youngsters eager to one-day enjoy a return to normalcy. He was asked what he would like to do when football is finished and his answer was to start an outreach program for children.

Adrian Clayborn, a respectful young man.

Because of double teams, triple teams and an occasional illegal chop block, Clayborn’s numbers of seven tackles for loss and 3 ½ sacks didn’t stack up to those compiled by Fairley or Bowers this season. Still, it’s doubtful that Hawkeye fans would trade No. 94 for either of the defensive stars from the SEC or the ACC.

“I’ve been fortunate in my young career to coach many great young men, but none quite as special as Adrian Clayborn,” UI defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski said. “When you think about Adrian, he’s been the consummate competitor and consummate gentleman in the weight room, the class room, on the practice field and on Saturday’s in Kinnick. For me, it’s been special. For all of us, we love him and we’ll miss him.”

There is one more game for Clayborn as a collegian: the Insight Bowl on Tuesday, Dec. 28, in Tempe, Ariz. He was asked why he returned to Iowa this fall, even though there were “a lot of dollars” looking at him from the NFL after his junior season.

“To get my education,” Clayborn said. “Football isn’t promised forever, so I had to get that. My mom wanted me to go back. I wanted to enjoy my senior season and senior day and everything that goes along with senior year. I don’t regret it, I’m glad I went back.”

Adrian Clayborn, a respectful — and intelligent — young man.