Oklahoma football: How Brennan Clay is making hard work and patience pay off
The Sooners' running back credits an old friend with success against Iowa State. The same thing could happen Saturday.
NORMAN — Oklahoma running back Brennan Clay is the closer.
The nice, lovey-dovey guy in a three-man group dubbed the Cali Trio helps the Sooners recruit players.
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Apparently, when the Cali Trio tries to recruit a player, Clay steps in as the one who closes the deal.
Kenny Stills, Tony Jefferson and Clay are juniors from the San Diego, Calif., area. They got their nickname, Stills thinks, from Twitter.
All are California born and California bred.
Stills and Jefferson are names many Sooner fans recognize. Stills makes the big touchdown catches. Jefferson makes the big hits.
Well, he watched future NFL running backs play his freshman year. His sophomore year, a walk-on stole the starting spotlight. And to start Clay's junior season, a juco transfer came in and received carry after carry — leaving Clay as the third running back on the team.
Then, against Iowa State last Saturday, everyone saw what OU running backs coach Cale Gundy said he's seen every day from Clay: his skills and dedication. In the process, Clay showed what it takes to be an athlete at a Division I football program — not the troublemaker or the superstar — but the guy who goes hard each day until he's called on to shine.
A week passed, but it still bugged Brennan Clay. Those two dropped passes against Notre Dame, he couldn't shake them from his memory.
“That game could have ended up differently,” he said.
Clay ended the day with a stat line that read two receptions for minus-12 yards.
Clay's three roommates — Stills, Jefferson and Damien Williams — didn't see him over the next few days. Clay escaped to his girlfriend's place. Stills said by the next day he was focused on the next game, but Clay admitted more than a week later that he still wondered what the result of the Notre Dame game would have been had he caught those passes.
He used Notre Dame game as motivation for the next time he got a chance to play, at Iowa State. With typical starter Williams out on an ankle injury and last year's star, Dom Whaley, not playing much, Gundy turned to Clay. He put up 157 yards and one touchdown over 24 carries.
“It builds up confidence,” Clay said of his performance vs. the Cyclones. “Being able to go out on Saturday, anybody, that's their dream. Going out on Saturday, being able to start and put up good numbers — it was fun to be able to go out there and do it.”
Brennan Clay might be the one in the Cali Trio with the tamest hairdo. It's a short cut. No star designs like Cali safety Jefferson or platinum-died Mohawk like wide receiver Stills.
But Clay has Toby. His alter ego. He comes out in football games. He did Saturday against Iowa State.
“Toby is my man,” Clay said with a big grin. “He's there. He's always there. When I'm out on the field, he's right there on the fly.”
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