As many people noticed, for the longest time there were some who considered Tyler Clifford a "soft" verbal to the University of Cincinnati. There's nothing soft about the 6-4 215-pound linebacker from Portsmouth, Ohio, including his commitment status.
Clifford committed to Cincinnati late this past summer after Mark Dantonio and the rest of the UC football staff made an incredible impression on him.
"He's absolutely firmly committed to the University of Cincinnati," his father and Portsmouth head football coach, Curt Clifford told Bearcat Insider. "He really had a great visit and a great time. He loves the staff and I don't think anyone could offer anything more than Cincinnati has."
Although there have been absolutely no doubts in the Clifford household as to where Tyler would play his college football, it hasn't been without a little bit of trying times.
Just three games into the season, Clifford broke his collarbone. The injury frightened Clifford enough that he wondered aloud if he would be able to retain his scholarship from the Bearcats.
"I called them (the coaching staff) the day after I broke it and I told them that we had a problem," Clifford recalled. "They told me it was no big deal and that I just needed to heal up and in come in ready to play."
Heal up is exactly what Clifford did—in just five games, in fact.
He was able to get back into action for the last two games of the season, although it meant missing Portsmouth's biggest game against perennial rival, Ironton.
"I had to miss the Ironton game, which is the second-longest running game in Ohio," he said. "I was raised to beat Ironton, and when I had to sit out and watch it from the sidelines, that really got to me."
The Ironton game was not all he missed.
Clifford was on pace to set the all time sack record as Portsmouth High School, something that Clifford wanted to set very badly from his defensive end position.
It gave him a new lease on life and his career.
"I guess I realized I wasn't invisible after that," Clifford said. "I had a scholarship to UC and was on pace for the sack record at my school. It hit me that you never know what could happen."
His father had no doubts about Cincinnati before the injury, but afterwards, he was even more impressed and sold on the University and the program.
"He loves everything about it. He went to every UC home game, in fact other than the one the day after his injury," the elder Clifford said. "The visit he was supposed to take as his official visit was the Miami game—the one he missed because of his injury."
"He just loves the city, and another big factor was the move to the Big East. He really loves Dantonio's no-nonsense approach. I don't think you can leave out Coach (Tim) Hinton and Coach Gill. They were really influential as well," Coach Clifford added.
In the end, Cincinnati was the best fit for Clifford who chose the Bearcats over Toledo, Akron, Kent State, and Marshall. He also received some second-tier interest from several Big Ten schools, although no offers came to fruition.
The season culminated for Clifford and his father when they were able to see the 33-14 win against Marshall in the Ft. Worth Bowl—a game the two got to go see in person.
"We got to go into the locker room," Clifford said. "It was a blast."
Clifford's weight will determine where he plays next year as a freshman. As of right now, his current weight would put him as a line backer—most likely on the outside.
If he comes into camp a little bigger (over 220 or 230 pounds), the plan is for Clifford to put his hand down and play end in college.
The incoming Bearcat is excited about his future. It was an easy decision for Clifford.
"The coaching staff (was what did it for me)," he concluded. "They made numerous trips to see me, and they just seem like a family up there. They were straight with me all along, and that's the kind of program I want to play for."
Just don't call him soft. He's a tough player and a very strong verbal.