Nation's Top Player Ready for Senior Season

The senior season of the top-ranked player in the country is about to kick off this Friday. Oaks Christian quarterback Jimmy Clausen will be back in action this weekend and we spoke with his dad to find out the latest with the five-star quarterback.

The last time many people heard from Jimmy Clausen he was announcing his intentions to attend the University of Notre Dame in a press conference in South Bend, Ind. Since the now infamous press conference, Clausen hasn't said much and plans to do the rest of his talking on the field.

"A lot has been said since the announcement," Jim Clausen, Jimmy's dad said. "We just decided to step back as you know. His older brothers told Jimmy it's time to shut up and play. He's been very busy trying to get ready for the season.

"Over the summer he had a passing tournament about every week. He was also throwing on every Wednesday in July. A number of teams would come to Oaks (Christian) and compete. We finally shut it down at the end of July and we went on vacation for about 10 days in Hawaii. I think Jimmy needed to be a kid again."

Vacationing isn't something this highly motivated kid does a lot of. Clausen's work ethic to be the very best has been well documented and that didn't change in the off season this year.

"He's worked so hard over the off season," Jim said. "He's so much better physically this year compared to last year. He's bigger, stronger and faster. He's really changed his body type and gained some arm strength and mobility."

Clausen committed to Notre Dame almost five months ago but that hasn't stopped the phones from ringing at the Clausen household.

"We're still getting about 10-15 calls a week," Jim Clausen said. "First it was Oklahoma guys after that thing asking if there was any chance. Jimmy said ‘tell them to call coach Weis and ask him if I should talk to someone at Oklahoma.' He's 100 percent sold on Notre Dame. He can't wait to get there.

"Last night he spent a couple of hours on the phone calling other guys that you also talk to (recruits). I think recruiting is going very, very well. They're trying to set it up so they can all be at the Michigan game together. He also told me he wants to come up for another game sometime this year that we'll pay for. He said there are a couple of other guys coming that weekend that he wants to be there for because he thinks it's important they come, so we'll be up for an unofficial visit as well. I'm not sure what game that is."

In the meantime, the younger Jimmy has a senior season to play, and many expect Oaks Christian to go undefeated once again in 2006. Clausen will also have a familiar face in his face throughout the season.

"(Older brother) Casey is coaching Jimmy at Oaks this season and all the quarterbacks," Mr. Clausen said. "Jimmy has been really lucky to have two brothers go through what they've been through. They've helped him get to this level.

"Right now Casey is making Jimmy practice like he'd have to practice at Notre Dame. He's making him watch all kinds of film, learning terminology and seeing things that he probably wouldn't be able to see had he not had his two older brothers go through it before.

"They'll watch film and Casey will say; ‘what did you see there?' Jimmy will explain and then Casey will say; ‘yeah, but did you see this?' He's lucky in the fact that Casey's had four years at Tennessee and two in the NFL to help him see things that a normal quarterback likely wouldn't have."

Speaking of watching, many eyes will be on the nation's top prospect and the family has tried to prepare him for the good and the bad of the spotlight.

"He knows that everyone will be watching," Jim said. "His older brother told him that some people would probably drive more 100 miles to come see this team play and he can't have a bad day. If you don't have your best stuff, you just have to work through it. People will talk but the best way to silence them is to play your very best."

And the senior quarterback also realizes he has a standard to uphold at this point as well.

"We realize that the next four months are going to go really quick and we want to do this the right way and handle it the right way," Jim said. "I think he's somewhat representing Notre Dame at this point and we need to make sure we do things the right way."

Speaking of Notre Dame, Jimmy also recently received a message from his future head coach Charlie Weis reminding him what the game is all about.

"Jimmy said he talked to coach Weis just the other night and coach Weis told him to remember to just go out there and have fun. I think he really appreciated hearing that," Jim said.

"He's really excited about going to Notre Dame. Our game is over three hours away and he said there was no way we were staying the night. He wanted to get back and get ready to watch the Notre Dame game."

Clausen has been ranked the top player by pretty much everyone in the country heading into his senior season, but will the nation's best player be in San Antonio for the Army All-American game after his senior season?

"I have no idea," Jim Clausen said. "We haven't even thought about that. That's kind of putting the cart before the horse. I don't think he's even been talked to about being nominated for the game. I assume we'd just call coach Weis first and see what he thinks.

"Jimmy's different and probably in a different situation. His whole focus after this season is getting ready for school, winter lifting and moving onto Notre Dame. I don't know if he'd want to play in the game or not because that might take away from that goal. I'm sure we'd call coach Weis first and see what he thought and take it from there. But like I said, that's putting the cart before the horse as nobody has even talked to us about being in the game that I know of."

Before any All-American appearances can take place Clausen needs to finish his senior season and Jim says it's time for Jimmy to play and try to reach those lofty expectations.

"It all starts this Friday. He's excited to get things rolling again," Jim said. "I think he's ready for this season. I think he knows there will be a spotlight. All the media attention is great but it doesn't matter if you don't perform well."

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories