Wisconsin running back John Clay decided after the Rose Bowl that he was finished in college and ready for the NFL. Unfortunately, NFL teams disagreed.
Clay sat and waited through three days of the NFL draft, and when his name wasn’t called, he wondered what he’s supposed to do next.
“It was tough,” Clay told Don Banks of SI.com. “Me and my family, we had a rough weekend. Toward the end, on the last day [of the draft], I only watched a little bit. At some point, I couldn’t watch it any more. I just went in a backroom and laid down, and watched my phone. My family watched the whole thing, but I couldn’t stand it any more. I was just getting nervous and upset at the same time.”
With the lockout preventing undrafted free agents from signing, this is a bad year for players like Clay. They may have to wait months before they’re even allowed to sign with a team, and with a shortened offseason they’ll have fewer opportunities to prove themselves and make a roster.
“Me and all the rest of the undrafted guys, we have no contact with anybody,” Clay said. “Our agents can’t talk to anybody about us, and everything’s up in the air. You don’t know when you’re going to get that phone call and be able to sign with a team.”
Clay had a good career at Wisconsin, with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, 32 touchdowns in the last two years, and a Big Ten offensive player of the year award in 2009. But the truth is, Clay’s numbers were a reflection of his role in the offense and Wisconsin’s line as much as they were a reflection on him, and it’s not a surprise that he went undrafted after running a 4.87-second 40-yard dash at the Combine. At least, it’s not a surprise to anyone but Clay.
“I pretty much did everything I thought I needed to do to be a guy to get drafted,” Clay said. “From the awards I got, the numbers I put up, the kind of player I was. I never had any off-field issues so that wasn’t a problem. I started thinking maybe it was just me. Maybe they didn’t like me, my personality or my game play. I thought I had proved myself when I stepped out on the field. I thought I’d get drafted by somebody, but all 32 teams felt the same way.”
And now none of those 32 teams could sign Clay even if they wanted to. The hard truth is, Clay probably isn’t going to make a living as a professional football player.