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Prize running back Brennan Clay has committed much more than his future services to Sooners
One phone call to Brennan Clay on the night before the first game of his final prep season tells you everything you need to know about one of the West Coast’s top football prospects.
Clay, a 6-foot, 190-pound senior at Scripps Ranch High School in San Diego, answered the phone to a symphony of clatter in the background.
“Hello? Who’s this”, Clay asked politely in the middle of a crowded restaurant.
The caller went on to explain how he was writing an article for Sooner Spectator magazine and needed a few minutes of Clay’s time.
Clay was out to dinner with his entire offensive line, getting ready for the season opener just 24 hours away. Clay talked about he was “repaying them” for everything they do for him and asked for a call-back at a later time.
And that, in a nutshell, is Brennan Clay.
He’s a people person, a networker who has undergone summer workouts with NFL All-Pro LaDanian Tomlinson, and one heck of a high school running back.
Clay is currently rated as the No. 2 all-purpose runner in the country by Rivals.com, as well as the No. 47 overall prospect in the class of 2010.
“We do this every year,” Clay said of the dinner when reached the next day. “It’s a traditional thing — all the running backs and all the offensive linemen.
“I talked about it with my running backs coach and he brought it up. He said, ‘You know what? All these big offensive linemen work hard for you, so repay them.’ We kind of talked about it and we talked about taking them out during the summer to a water park or something like that, but we were like, they like to eat!”
Clay’s athletic exploits are becoming legendary in the San Diego area. He’s been compared to the “other” best running back in town, the Chargers’ Tomlinson, but his biggest idol remains former Sooner Adrian Peterson.
“Some people say I even look like (Tomlinson), which I find very hard to believe,” said Clay. “Then again, I’ve worked out with him a few times over the summer. We’ve had some conversations and we’ve worked routes with him over the summer. He’s become a mentor.
“He honestly said I look more like Adrian Peterson than him. I found that pretty amusing. Adrian Peterson is my favorite back and I would love to follow in his footsteps and be as great as him one day.”
Clay is already ahead of Peterson in the charisma department at this stage of his career. Sure, Peterson’s face is plastered all over commercials and magazines these days, but when Peterson first arrived at OU, he was far from the smooth-talking media icon he has become.
For Clay, relationships and conversations come easy. It’s something which has taken him to the Internet, and the popular social networking site, Facebook.
Prior to the season, Clay boasted 1,685 Facebook friends, a number that is growing daily. Many of those friends are current OU commitments, future OU teammates, and even current OU recruiting targets.
But Clay isn’t online to inflate his ego from football fans across the country. He’s using his time online to meet his future teammates and to help OU build the best possible recruiting class for 2010.
For years, football coaches across the country have worked to line up official recruiting visit weekends between recruits who are already committed, and their most important non-committed recruits. Those committed recruits were able to make their own sales pitches to the uncommitted during these official visits.
While the players were on there own hanging out in the dorms, or at campus parties later that night, the committed can work to sell the prospects on choosing their school.
But recruiting has evolved even further thanks to players like Clay, who search out potential prospects through social networking sites on the Internet in an effort to attract other great players to Norman.
“That’s probably the best thing for us being so far and so distant from each other,” said Clay of befriending other athletes on Facebook. “You hear through the grapevine that people are leaning toward OU, so that’s where I took it upon myself to add people I know I might see in the future or people that really have a great deal of interest in OU.
“I just took it upon myself to introduce myself and talk about OU athletics to see how they were as a person.”
Facebook has also allowed Clay to become closer to his future teammates, players such as quarterback Blake Bell and running back Roy Finch.
“I think I got to know Blake Bell through his Facebook and I got his number and then we became really great acquaintances. Everything just exploded from there and it’s a great tool to get to know each other, and I’m glad we get to do that.”
Another relationship Clay was able to develop through the Internet was the one with Finch, the nation’s No. 3 all-purpose running back according to Rivals.com.
Highly-rated running backs potentially vying for playing time in the same backfield? Surely that can’t go over too easily?
Not so according to Clay, who has developed a strong bond with Finch because of Facebook.
“I honestly believe we’re going to be best friends and we’ve already hit it off so well,” said Clay.
Clay hasn’t just become a Finch's friend, he might be his biggest fan.
“I saw Roy at the Gridiron Kings in Florida and he’s such an explosive and elusive player,” added Clay. “I think he’s going to bring a great deal to the table at OU. He can do it all. He runs the ball despite his size and he has cuts like no other.”
Not that Clay needed more reasons to feel comfortable with his decision to attend Oklahoma, but his relationships developed through Facebook have solidified the bond between the California product and the rest of his class, regardless of whether they reside down the street or on the opposite coast.
It’s also kept him in the loop with players who are close to pulling the commitment trigger in favor of OU. That was certainly the case with recent commitment Justin McCay from Shawnee, Kan., who created a small buzz when he tipped off Facebook friends that a potential commitment to OU was eminent.
“I actually found out (about McCay picking OU) before everyone else knew about it,” explained Clay. “On the Gridirons thing, I was talking to Justin about recruiting and he told me even before that he was all OU and he was just waiting for the perfect moment to commit. He told me he visited Florida and he wasn’t really liking it and he told me his heart was at OU.
“When he posted it on Facebook, he had already messaged me first. He just said he was waiting for me to get back with him and he pulled the trigger the next day and I’m glad he did.”
It’s possible Clay will be the first to know about the next Sooner commitment because of his networking skills. One of his newest friends online has become OU target Darius White, another one of the nation’s top receiver prospects.
“I feel pretty confident with Darius White,” said Clay. “I try and talk to him and I got his number about two months ago and I text him every now and then. I think Darius might be OU. I hope he is and we’ll just see how things play out.”
Regardless of the outcome with White, Clay says he’s enjoyed every minute of getting to know his teammates and potential teammates via the Internet.
Even the self-professed technophobe, Bob Stoops, has to admit that this part of technology isn’t so bad.
“I just honestly want my class to be one of the top classes in the nation and I believe hard work gets credit,” said Clay. “If you get all the best players on your team, you’re starting off with a great beginning to three or four championship teams. I think that’s a huge thing going through the recruiting class right now.
“Getting to know all these players — Blake Bell, Roy Finch — we’re frequently staying in contact and I think this is going to be a special class and I can’t wait until after this year is over. I can only look forward to good things.”
(Editor’s Note: This story appeared in the Sept. 16 edition of Sooner Spectator magazine. To subscribe, call toll free 1-877-841-8877.)