October 9, 2009

Clayborn beats the odds

With her son running to the end zone after his game changing punt block in State College, Tracie Clayborn got up and did a little running of her own in their St. Louis home and then outside of it.

"When he picked up that ball and started running, I just got up and started running too and ran right out of the house," she said with a laugh.

Adrian's father, Ricky, sat there stunned.
"All I could think of is, wow," he said.

His high school coach at Webster Groves, Cliff Ice, who had attended his first Iowa game a couple of weeks earlier against Arizona, was watching at home with his family.

"I can tell you, it got pretty loud all the sudden in our house," said Coach Ice. "I got up and probably acted like an idiot and then I think I must have watched the play over and over again about ten times before we actually got back to the game."

The 53 yard blocked punt changed the game for the Hawkeyes in their win over Penn State. It earned Adrian Clayborn National Player of the Week honors along with a nod from the Big Ten Conference.

Tracie Clayborn got up and ran with her son. There was plenty of pride at that moment for what he had just done. There were probably a few tears of joy along the way and thoughts of the moment back on July 8, 1988, when the Clayborn's welcomed an 11 pound 3 ounce baby boy to the world.

That was also the day that the Clayborn's were told that their son had something called Erb's Palsy.

At the time they had no idea what Erb's Palsy was, but they learned quite a bit about it very quickly.

"During his delivery he had a damaged nerve in his shoulder and his neck. His arm was kind of weak and he had to go to physical therapy," Tracie said.

The prognosis from the doctor's wasn't promising, at least if Adrian wanted to play contact sports when he grew up.

Erb's Palsy generally occurs during a difficult birth where the child's head and neck are pulled towards the side while the head and shoulders pass through the birth canal or by excessive pulling on the shoulders during the birthing process.

The general outcome is that the child has limited movement and/or weakness in the arm due to nerve damage around the shoulder. Some children get better quickly. For others it never comes back completely.

They knew that Adrian was going to be a big baby and that likely played a role in the complications during delivery.

After his birth, Adrian had his arm placed in a sling for three months and started physical therapy right away. He made regular visits to the Children's Hospital in St. Louis and while putting together a scrapbook of her son's life this month, Tracie recently ran across something that the doctors said at the time.

"The letter said that if he were to play sports, he would have shoulder injuries. They said he shouldn't play sports." she said. "It brought tears to my eyes thinking about where he came from to where he is now. It is an amazing story because when he was born, he couldn't even lift his arm or do anything with it and look at him now."

Iowa fans have gotten a good look at what he is doing now and it has been nothing short of amazing. Through five games the junior defensive end has 17 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumble, and of course, one amazing blocked punt that he returned for a touchdown.

Adrian Clayborn is the youngest of four children. His older brother, James, was a quarterback at Webster Groves High School and Adrian would follow him and his sister, who was a cheerleader, everywhere they went. He would shag balls for his brother, be the waterboy for the team, and do whatever they needed.

But, he wasn't allowed to play football.
Adrian was bigger than every kid his age, but his parents didn't want to take the risk of allowing him to play football, even though their son would pester them on an almost daily basis.

Tracie says that eventually her baby boy wore her down and she gave in to his request.

"He just kept saying he wanted to play and I kept tell him that we will see. Then I finally gave in and I told him if he got hurt than that was it."

To this day, he has never had a problem with his shoulder. One look at the 6-foot-3 and 280 pound end today and it is hard to imagine that he ever had a problem to begin with.

What he did do was overcome it through hard work and determination.

"He wanted to play football like his brother did. Football was and still is his passion. He strengthened his arm and even after his freshman year in high school I took him back to the doctor and they told him, you are strong as an ox."

That was about the time that Coach Ice got his first look at the young budding star.

"I think I saw him the first time when he was in the 8th grade. When I saw him play, he was just so much bigger and faster than everybody," Ice said. "In his freshman year we brought him over to the varsity drills and he was kind of tossing people around there. He didn't play a lot for us as a freshman, but you could tell right away that he was going to be pretty special."

He was very special.

Clayborn earned Player of the Year honors in Missouri in his senior year, after playing both linebacker and tight end.

"He is definitely a top five player that I have ever coached, probably high up in that top five," said Coach Ice.

Clayborn kept getting better as a player and eventually the college coaches came calling. That was a moment that his mom will never forget.

"I didn't know much about football, but I remember that moment," she said. "People were talking in the stands and Coach Ice talked to us about the coaches being interested in him. I probably started to cry because I never thought he would play football beyond high school."

He has done more than just play in college. Clayborn is now become a star at the college level.

"We just thought that if he kept improving that by the time he got to his senior year he would be amazing and he did that. He worked hard and wasn't just satisfied being the best player on his team. He wanted to go to the next level," said Coach Ice.

These days the Clayborn's never miss a home game and travel to road games whenever possible. They look on with amazement at what their son has done and the man that he has become. Like his father, Adrian is a man of few words, but he has is a very humble young man.

"We are so very proud of him and what he has been able to accomplish in high school and at Iowa," Tracie said. "He is doing so well and has his head on straight. He is on pace to graduate and that makes us very proud."

Adrian Clayborn hasn't forgotten his roots either. While he doesn't get home very often due to the demands of being a Big Ten football player, when he does, he loves to sit down and eat mom's barbeque and spend time with his friends from high school going to movies and hanging out.

He will also make his way back over to Webster Groves High School, where the current players are among his admirers.

"He gets back here and everyone is always happy to see him. He attracts a bit of a crowd and all of our players know who he is. But, he is the same kid that he was back then and a real good kid," said Coach Ice.

Adrian Clayborn is the same kid.

He is the same kid that beat the odds and he is still beating them.

He never gave up on his childhood dream and he plays every down with that on his mind. Not too bad for a kid that was never supposed to play football.


...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!