View Full Version : Peak for Valley grad Clemons was being drafted by Steelers
05-06-2012, 10:11 AM
Peak for Valley grad Clemons was being drafted by Steelers
By Sam Werner / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
As the seventh and final round of the recent NFL draft crept to a close, Toney Clemons began to question whether he would get that call.
Clemons, a Colorado wide receiver and Valley High School graduate, was projected to go in the late rounds, but could easily have gone undrafted.
He began to prepare for the process of signing with a team as a free agent. In later rounds, players sometimes even prefer to go undrafted so they can have a say in with which the team they sign.
If things work out, Clemons thought, maybe he would be lucky enough to get a chance with his hometown Steelers.
Finally, Clemons' phone rang. Even better, it was a 412 area code.
The Steelers selected Clemons with the 231st overall pick, giving him a chance for "a dream come true."
"Just numbers-wise, it doesn't really happen often," Clemons said about the chance to play for his hometown team. "It's a small number, small odds, and I never even imagined it. Even in the process, when I found out they were interested in me, I was still like, 'What are the chances of me ending up there?'"
The Steelers didn't take Clemons just for his Pittsburgh roots, though. General manager Kevin Colbert said he thought the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Clemons had the tools to compete right away at wide receiver.
Clemons transferred from Michigan to Colorado after his sophomore year. In just two seasons with the Buffaloes, he racked up 86 catches for 1,162 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Colbert also noted Clemons' ability to contribute on special teams.
"He's really athletic," Colbert said after the draft. "That was the thing that you don't see. A lot of times you see big guys, you see sometimes they are big, strong guys and they aren't the fastest or most fluid. This kid can make some small-man catches, and some small-man runs after the catches."
Clemons got his first taste of NFL action this weekend at the Steelers' rookie minicamp. He expected the speed of the game to increase, but also noted the jump required in mental preparation at the professional level.
"They don't come in questioning whether you know [the playbook] or not," he said. "They put you in the huddle, make the call and expect you to know it.
"It's just been like studying for one of the hardest exams of your life every single day."
Clemons knows that challenge will get even more difficult when the veterans show up this summer for organized team activities.
"We're playing fast now, but it's nothing compared to when the vets get here," he said. "It's going to be a whole different level."
Clemons has plenty of hurdles to clear before he can fulfill his dream and run out of the tunnel at Heinz Field wearing black and gold.
One side benefit of playing close to home, though, is having plenty of friends and family nearby to lend support.
In fact, Clemons said that when the call from the Steelers finally came, his friends and family were jumping up and down, celebrating even more than he was.
"My mom has me home," he said with a smile. "She was just excited. You would've thought she got the call."
Clemons was prepared for that call not to come. But it did, and he's ready to take advantage.
Sam Werner: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SWernerPG.
First Published 2012-05-06 04:05:23
05-10-2012, 02:09 AM
Hometown rookies are living the dream
Posted May 8, 2012
Teresa Varley - Steelers.com
It’s not unusual to hear people who have grown up in Pittsburgh talk about how they dreamt about playing for the Steelers when they were kids. They love to reminisce about wearing their Steelers jerseys in the backyard, catching passes as if they were Lynn Swann or Hines Ward, tackling their friends the same way Jack Lambert or James Harrison would.
They have dreamt about putting on a Steelers uniform, running out of the tunnel at either Three Rivers Stadium or Heinz Field with the Terrible Towels twirling and the crowd screaming.
For most it’s just that - a dream. It hasn’t gone any further than the backyard fun, the neighborhood bragging rights.
But for three Steelers rookies, the dream is becoming a reality.
Wide receivers Toney Clemons and Connor Dixon and linebacker Brandon Lindsey are living their dream, the same dream so many of their friends had, playing for the hometown Steelers.
“I did dream about this,” said Dixon, who played at Duquesne University and attended South Park High School in the Pittsburgh suburbs. “I think a lot of people did, but it’s just not a reality. I didn’t think it would be happening to me.
“It’s great. It’s hard to describe. There is nothing better. I was the biggest fan growing up. I really liked everybody. I liked Kordell Stewart because I played quarterback. I liked Neil O’Donnell. I was also a big Jerome Bettis fan, I liked the Bus.”
He wasn’t alone in having watched the Steelers play while growing up, knowing all about current and past players.
“I was a fan of all of these guys playing now and even before,” said Clemons, a seventh round draft pick who played at Valley High School in New Kensington, Pa.
Clemons understands the tradition that a Steelers’ receiver has to uphold, and while he was too young to watch them play he knows all about Swann and John Stallworth. But it’s a receiver who played in the 1990s, Yancey Thigpen, that was one of his favorites.
“It’s all the guys, all of the great receivers that played here,” said Clemons. “I grew up here. I had a Yancey Thigpen jersey when I was little. I got to see him play. I liked how suave he was. He played so smooth. He was crafty and a competitor. He competed for the ball, every play, every snap. That’s what I like to do, go out and compete.”
While Clemons knew he was joining the Steelers after the draft ended, the dream took a bit longer coming for Dixon and Lindsey. Both of them were signed with the Steelers as free agents following the draft, something that was a no-brainer.
“After the draft we were looking at the teams, at their depth charts, where I would have my best possible scenario, where I would get on the field the fastest,” said Lindsey, who played at the University of Pittsburgh and Aliquippa High School. “You can’t go wrong staying in your hometown, playing for the Steelers. It’s the franchise that has the most Super Bowl wins in history. The legacy speaks for itself without me having to say anything.
“It means a lot. My family grew up Steelers fans and would love nothing more than to see me play for the Steelers. It’s a dream come true for them and me.”
When all three first arrived for the team’s rookie mini-camp, they were admittedly excited about seeing their names on a locker, seeing the Super Bowl trophies, the entire history of the team in front of them. But they also made sure that excitement didn’t hinder their approach on the field.
“I took pictures of my helmet when I first saw it,” said Clemons. “When they fit me for the helmet and the chinstrap went on, it was like wow. I dreamt about wearing one of these helmets.
“But now, it’s time to get to work.”
05-10-2012, 04:24 PM
Let's not hope being drafted is really his peak. Let's hope that peak is down the road sometime soon.
05-10-2012, 06:27 PM
Let's not hope being drafted is really his peak. Let's hope that peak is down the road sometime soon.
05-27-2012, 01:47 AM
Valley’s Clemons stays grounded
By Bill Beckner Jr. - Valley News Dispatch
Published: Sunday, May 27, 2012
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It’s been one month since Toney Clemons joined the Steelers’ congregation, a local kid with big dreams primed to make the most of an opportunity with his hometown team.
On April 28, he was introduced to Steeler Nation, a promising young receiver with a wide smile, thoughtful personality and suddenly, one foot in the NFL door.
In a matter of hours that day, he gained more than 1,000 Twitter followers, his cell phone flooded with texts and calls, his popularity spiked.
In the weeks that followed, Clemons signed a contract, attended rookie camp and organized team activities and learned he’ll wear No. 11 if he makes the team.
One would think the whirlwind was life-changing for the Valley graduate.
“Not at all,” Clemons said. “I still shop at Family Dollar, go to $5 movies on Tuesdays and use my Sheetz gas card. I went into Finish Line at the (Pittsburgh) Mills the other day and someone asked me why I was shopping at the mall and not at my mansion. My mansion? It’s crazy. It doesn’t work like that. When you grow up a certain way, you don’t change. You don’t forget where you came from.
“I am too down to earth to hang out on Cloud 9.”
By all accounts, Clemons, who refers to his team workouts as a 9-to-5 job, was impressive at rookie camp and OTAs, where the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder caught passes and showed his speed.
Still, the seventh-round pick out of Colorado knows nothing is guaranteed and remains humble as he studies the playbook and readies for training camp.
“Nothing has changed,” said Clemons’ mother, Tonie. “He never had a car, and now he’s borrowing a car from a friend to free up my car to get to practice.
“He is staying (in a North Side apartment) so he doesn’t have to commute. He’s still broke.”
Clemons’ four-year contract is worth $2.149 million, with a $49,824 signing bonus.
His mother said he hasn’t received a dime yet, although the bonus is guaranteed.
What’s been priceless, Tonie said, is the impact her son has made by simply getting drafted by the Steelers.
“The only change I do see is not so much with Toney but the community and surrounding areas,” she said.
“People from New Kensington, Burrell, Tarentum, all over, are so excited and happy for him. Little kids are concentrating and doing well in school. They have a newfound energy — they see what Toney has gone through, living in the ’hood and the obstacles he’s had to overcome. They say, ‘If he can do it, maybe I can, too.’ ”
Clemons is aware of his favorable impact.
“It makes me feel amazing to know that I am a walking, talking, breathing example,” he said. “Kids can relate to the struggle. These are kids who came from the same neighborhoods and streets and are playing football in the same public housing yards that I did growing up.”
Kiski Area and Pitt grad Scott McKillop was selected in the 2009 draft by the San Francisco 49ers. A linebacker, McKillop is now trying to build a career with the Buffalo Bills.
McKillop has been through the rookie process and knows how difficult it can be.
“If I was to give him any advice football-wise, it would be to do everything you possibly can to help the team out, no matter what it is,” McKillop said.
“Financially, I would tell him to not be afraid to say no to anyone and keep his surrounding friends and family small. And seeing as he was a late-round draft pick like myself, I would tell him to be ready to work his butt off on special teams.”
Veteran players seem to have taken a liking to Clemons.
“You watch guys like Troy (Polamalu), James Farrior and Antonio (Brown) work, and you learn pretty quickly that there are no off days,” Clemons said. “There’s a whole mentality you have to have. The vet QBs, Ben (Roethlisberger), Charlie Batch, Byron (Leftwich) are always quick to show you what you could have done better or what you can improve on. (Jerricho) Cotchery taught me you can never catch enough passes in practice or after practice.
“You can never be too polished. You never arrive at this level.”
Clemons said he hasn’t been pushed around. His teammates have welcomed him.
“It’s not like that,” Clemons said. “You can’t single guys out. You’re a Steeler. They don’t care what year you are.”
06-28-2012, 01:29 AM
Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Competition: WR Toney Clemons vs. Field
by Neal Coolong on Jun 27, 2012
At some point in Toney Clemons' wayward collegiate career, he got it.
Nevermind that he was good enough to earn a roster spot at Michigan his freshman year. Equally dismissive is the fact, a year and a half later, he took his 12 career catches to Colorado. Then a redshirt year. Then some more lack of production.
His final five games, though, playing for a brutal Buffaloes squad, 25 catches, 476 yards (19 yards per catch) and five touchdowns.
A total of 31 NFL teams passed on Clemons' four and a half years of collegiate sub-mediocrity. The Steelers drafted the last five games in the 7th round. And now, Clemons looks poised to take the final receiver roster spot behind one of the league's best four-deep group.
It's odd a team would simply give a roster spot to a 7th round pick in that year's draft. But when you have a depth chart reading Wallace, Mike; Brown, Antonio; Sanders, Emmanuel; Cotchery, Jerricho; you're able to do pretty much whatever you want with that last spot.
And this isn't exactly a team lacking drafting success at the receiver position. None of the aforementioned Four Deep From Hell were taken earlier than the 82nd overall pick (Sanders). No team has the depth at receiver the Steelers do without having invested a pick in the position.
The main competition Clemons will see from the field comes from Tyler Beiler and David Gilreath. Beiler was undrafted out of Division III Bridgewater College in Virginia, and he has probably the best combination of size and speed outside of Clemons.
Gilreath, a slight and fast receiver from Wisconsin, has return skills and could make things interesting from a special teams standpoint. The same could be said for Marquis Maze, who, playing for Alabama, was a pulled hamstring from returning a punt for a score against LSU in the national championship game. Maze is listed at 5-foot-8, meaning he's 5-foot-7 or less, and would need a stellar camp both as a receiver and a return man to fight off players better suited to play a position along with handling return duties.
It wouldn't be surprising to see the Steelers bring a veteran longshot in, if for no other reason, to push the young group of receivers and see how they respond to it. Regardless of Clemons' ability (he was said to flash a lot of talent during minicamp, but looked less-than-average at other times), a team isn't going to give a jersey to a rookie for no reason other than he's the best one left on the roster. At the same time, a veteran, even at the minimum, would be slated to make more than twice what Clemons will in the 2012 season, and could shy away from signing with the Steelers.
Knowing that, the Steelers may simply let the younger guys do battle. In that scenario, the Steelers are looking for the last five games version of Clemons, not the previous 4.5 years.
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