NORMAN — For some student-athletes, completing a degree is an investment in their future after sports. For Mark Clayton, it was about leaving a legacy.
"I have a son who’s 2 years old,” Clayton said. "I want to be able to say, ‘When you go to school, you’re going and you’re finishing.’ I want to preach that and tell him about finishing everything that you do. Everything that you start, finish with the best of your ability.” Clayton, who was a redshirt member of the Sooners’ 2000 national championship football team, finished his college football days strong. He set the school record for career receiving yards. He was picked by the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft, just 12 hours shy of finishing his communications degree. Although he’s not done in NFL, Clayton seized the opportunity to finish school through OU’s degree completion program. OU offers classes online, but that route wasn’t right for him. "You gotta know yourself,” he said. "Me and online, we don’t get along.” It’s hard for professional athletes, especially those still playing, to get away from the demands of the sport to complete a degree.
Finishing touchMark Clayton →Played four football seasons for Oklahoma, catching 220 passes for 3,236 yards and 31 touchdowns. →Picked in the first round — the 22nd pick overall — in 2005 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens. →Clayton has played 76 games in the NFL, including 59 as a starter. →He has 234 receptions for 3,116 yards and 12 TDs for the Ravens. →Clayton is among 121 student-athletes graduating from OU. The school-record number includes former Sooners defensive back Derrick Strait, who won the Nagurski and Jim Thorpe trophies in 2003. Strait is finishing school after playing the 2004-2006 seasons in the NFL. BY JAMES CORLEY