Junior Running Back Already a Hot Prospect

John Clay is a junior running back at Park high school (Racine Wisc.) and he has already caught the attention of major colleges from around the country, including Notre Dame. Irish Eyes caught up with his head coach, Dennis Thompson, to find out what makes Clay a top recruiting target for Division I schools.

In No. 4 ranked Park high school's opening game of the Wisconsin Division I play-offs, the Panthers didn't need to rely on John Clay (6-2, 225-pound) to route Janesville Craig 49-7, as Park put together a complete team effort in jumping out to a 42-0 halftime lead. Nonetheless coach Thompson has a player that has the ability to carry a team on his back.

"The sky's the limit in terms of athletic ability and he hasn't reached his potential yet," coach Thompson said of his star tailback who rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns against Craig Tuesday night. "He's kind of like an Erik Dickerson running style. He runs a 4.57 forty. He'll take on guys; he'll run between the tackles. He runs downhill, which is the great thing about him. He doesn't juke. He can give you a juke, but when he gets open he's a downhill type kid. He has breakaway speed also.

"As a junior he's probably one of the best players in the state," Thompson continued. "He's a quite leader. If something really goes wrong, he'll stand out, but he's more internally motivated instead to external. He's not a lot of talk."

Clay wasn't always as big as he is now obviously, but when Thompson saw him in eight grade, he knew that Clay would be very good player when he made the jump to high school. Once in high school, it didn't take long for Clay to make his presence known on the field.

"When he was a ninth-grader we were in the play-offs, and Hartland Arrowhead had a tight end, Nick Hayden, who plays for Wisconsin. They ran a swing pass to him and in a one-on-one situation, Johnny kind of pick him up and slammed him," described Thompson. "John was a freshman and Nick was a senior."

Clay is a terrific player with a frame of a freshman in college right now. But this isn't a program that has one good player come through its system every 20 years, so Thompson has seen his fair share of quality athletes.

Brent Moss (RB, Wisconsin '91-‘93) played for us; Kevin Barry, (OL, Arizona 2000-01) who plays for the Packers now played for us. Jerry Woods, who played for the Packers (1990) and the Detroit Lions (1989)…so we have some history," Thompson explained. "We have another kid at Northern Iowa, Patrick Hunter, one of our receivers, that we're getting letters back from the Green Bay Packers, the Raiders.

Thompson does know Notre Dame's recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach Rob Ianello from his days at Wisconsin, and Notre Dame has already been in contact with coach Thompson about Clay. But there is already a long line of recruiters knocking on the coaches' office at Park high school.

"Tennessee, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Ohio State, about everyone is starting to latch on now," said Thompson of the parade of college recruiters interested in Clay. "He wants to take his visits, but that's up to him and his family. I don't really persuade him.

"Wisconsin, Ohio State said they'd give him one, and Arkansas," he added as teams that have extended Clay a scholarship offer.

"He's gone to the Wisconsin camp and some state camps. He was supposed to do the Nike camp but we had a track meet that day. He also runs track for us. He's our anchor for our 4X400 relay team".

Coach Thompson listed Clay's g.p.a. at 2.7 or 2.8. Thompson schedules all of his players to take the PSAT and that test will happen shortly.

Comments: I watched the Park high school game Tuesday night against Craig and was impressed with John Clay in his limited carries. He actually reminds me of Rashon Powers-Neal when he first came to Notre Dame. I think Clay has better feet than Powers-Neal and he might have the extra gear that Powers-Neal lacks. Clay hits the hole hard and before you know it he's through for 10 yards. If the hole isn't there he's patient and he'll feel his way along the line until a hole opens up. Clay did have a touchdown run called back due to holding penalty. The run was approximately 25 yards off tackle that he took to the sideline.

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