No Quit in Nick Clement

When Colorado senior walk-on Nick Clement takes the field Nov. 25 against Nebraska, he figures it's going to be a bittersweet affair. It'll be the last time Clement jogs onto the turf at Folsom behind Ralphie the Buffalo, but it also means he's closer to moving past football and into a new phase of his life.

Nick Clement remembers the first weeks of practice when he was invited to walk on the Colorado team in August 2001, a lightly recruited player from Cheyenne Mountain High School in Colorado Springs. Back then, the freshmen practiced together for a handful of days before the returning veterans put on the pads. Lining up against the upperclassmen was an eye-opener for the young defensive tackle.

"It was like, ‘What did I get myself into? I've got a lot of work ahead of me,'" Clement says. "It was tough."

Turns out, so was Clement. Tough and stubborn. How else do you explain a stat line that reads something like this:

Years as a Colorado Buffalo: 5
Offseason conditioning workouts: (Roughly) 400
In-season conditioning workouts: 300
Spring, August and fall football practices: 410
Games appeared in: 5
Plays: 40
Tackles: 1

The week leading up to the Nebraska game, the fifth-year senior is still pulling scout team duty. He won the weekly Scout Team Defense award prior to the Texas game in October. Clement won the award once back in 2003, too.

When Clement, 6-foot-2 and 260 pounds, walks into a room, he looks like a football player. But he wasn't blessed with speed, even the modest amount an interior defensive lineman needs. So when Clement spent countless hours working on his quickness after the 2003 season, and actually saw improvements, word was he would get a shot to crack the two-deep the following fall and finally earn some playing time.

For a kid that grew up in Colorado Springs, one whose parents had driven him north on I-25 since he was 8 years old to attend CU football camps, a kid who used to be a regular at Air Force's Falcon Stadium in the fall as a youngster, but wishing he was at Folsom, things were looking up.

Then Clement tore his pectoral muscle during a workout in July 2004. He missed the entire season. It took him another offseason to get back to 100 percent. By then, his chance to crack the lineup had passed.

Clement isn't one to walk around with a chip on his shoulder. Frankly, there's not enough time in the Colorado football player's day for that. Along with football duties, and a demanding class load, the 23-year old has recently taken up tae kwon do to help hone his football skills.

But Clement doesn't pull any punches when asked about his senior year.

"It's been disappointing because I was hoping to have a more significant role on the team, maybe a starting special teams job, or something along those lines," he says. "But I haven't done that, I'm still on the scout team.

"I've gotten into games, which is cool. It's been fun, but disappointing at the same time."

Clement's significance has come in areas that don't show up on the stat sheet.

"He has a different perspective on things than a lot of people, a more mature perspective," says head coach Gary Barnett. "He enjoys being out there and practicing, and he's got himself in a position where he travels every game.

"He's just one of those guys who you know is a good, stable guy in the locker room and on the practice field. He becomes an example for other guys."

Starting defensive lineman James Garee came to Colorado from Colorado Springs the same year as Clement, though Garee was on scholarship. Garee says Clement is a rare kind of teammate.

"He's a great guy," Garee says. "He doesn't care about the credit or recognition. It's rare that you get a leader in the weight room and on the field in summer conditioning that doesn't play. He does everything right. He doesn't skip a set (in weightlifting). He holds other people accountable."

Clement is one of 10 seniors in the current class who came to Colorado as walk-ons. His parents are fixtures at home and away games. While Clement never received a scholarship, he earned respect from his teammates.

"He's just top of the line," says strength and conditioning coach Greg Finnegan. "He's a great team guy. He cares about being a Buff. He does everything he can; he prepares like he's going to play. Watches film, trains as hard as anyone else.

"He gives you everything he's got all the time. And the guys respect that. They see him in here every day; he doesn't complain, he doesn't get upset, he just keeps going to work."

Recently, fellow walk-on Justin Adams, a sophomore, asked Clement what's kept him coming back for more every day the past five seasons.

"I told him that I've never quit anything in my life," Clement says. "If I'm going to make the dedication to do it, I'm going to finish it."

That trait will come in handy when Clement throws his No. 95 Colorado uniform into the postgame laundry pile for the last time. Clement is a semester away from finishing his bachelor of fine arts degree in film studies. He plans to pursue a career in producing and directing films after college, a career that demands perseverance in equal measure with talent.

Clement will spend next semester in a Semester at Sea program through the university, where he and other CU students will travel via ship from the Caribbean, to Brazil, South Africa, India, China, Vietnam, Japan and back to the United States.

Clement will take the opportunity to work on a documentary film about the sport of fly fishing around the world.

Currently, Clement is filming a short narrative film, also with a fly fishing theme, called "Elk Hair Caddis." The title comes from the name of popular fly used by trout fishermen. The film is a story of a man whose obsession with fly fishing gets him fired from his job and threatens his marriage.

Clement cast teammates Mason Crosby and John Torp as extras in the 15-minute film. When he was looking for someone to play the part of a stern boss who chews out an employee, Clement went to his head coach.

"I figured he would fill the role well of someone who was .. a loud-voice type of guy," Clement says, laughing. "That boss figure, that authority figure that could ream out the main character."

Clement joked that Barnett was a little concerned about being typecast, but accepted the role. They plan to film the scene in an office at the Dal Ward Center this weekend. Then it's on to Nebraska Week.

Along with his 19 fellow senior teammates, Clement will get his special introduction in front of the Folsom crowd on Senior Day Nov. 25. But, unless the Buffaloes head into the fourth quarter with a comfortable lead, it's unlikely Clement will get to play.

Whatever happens, Clement is looking forward to the game.

"It's going to be definitely some mixed emotions," he says. "One side of me is going to be relieved that it's done. I've got a lot of other things going on in my life. …Then there's the other side of me that will really miss playing football. I've been playing since I was in second grade. It will be really tough to leave the sport."


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