The Clausens and UT

Jim Clausen said it was ``very difficult'' flying to Knoxville a few weeks ago to tell Tennessee's coaches that son Jimmy would not be attending the same school as older brothers Casey and Rick Clausen.

Jimmy Clausen, the nation's top-rated quarterback, picked Notre Dame.

The father felt it was important to tell Tennessee face to face, rather than by phone. So he made the nearly 3,000 mile trip to deliver the news.

When Clausen faced Vols coach Phillip Fulmer, Fulmer brought home an interesting point: ``Casey had a great college career and don't ever forget that.''

Said Clausen: ``Sometimes I do forget that.''

Sometimes the father forgets that Casey won at Alabama, won at Florida, won at Miami, won at Notre Dame. Sometimes the father forgets that Casey was the second-winningest quarterback at Tennessee behind Peyton Manning and came within a half of leading the Vols to the national championship game in the Rose Bowl.

What the dad has not forgotten is that Casey didn't get invited to the Senior Bowl, didn't get drafted and didn't make it in the NFL.

``Everybody would like to make a living as a pro athlete,'' Clausen said.

Even Casey. But the NFL didn't feel Casey had the tools to make it in the NFL.

For a long time, Jim Clausen blamed Tennessee. He felt Fulmer didn't do enough to get Casey into the Senior Bowl. He didn't feel Casey was properly developed. He didn't feel Casey's fundamentals were as strong as they needed to be to play in the pros.

But a more reflective Jim Clausen now has a different take.

``In retrospect, I didn't do a very good job agent-wise and training-wise,'' Clausen said. ``This kid was all over the place (in evaluations). Teams really liked him and teams didn't have him on the board. Do I understand that? No. But I have a better feel.''

Clausen said what happened to Casey at Tennessee had nothing to do with Jimmy's decision to pick Notre Dame.

``Jimmy is different and unique from (his brothers),'' Jim Clausen said. ``This kid is special. His approach to things is different. Jimmy mentioned it's a business decision. It's about a dream he has.''

That dream is to play in the NFL. And he thinks Charlie Weis is the man who can help get him there. Of course, winning in college wouldn't hurt.

Jim Clausen said Notre Dame wasn't on Jimmy's list until Weis was hired. Jimmy, who turns 19 Sept. 21, questioned whether Notre Dame could recruit well enough to play at a national championship level.

``Watch what we do with recruiting,'' Weis told the Clausens. ``And watch Brady Quinn. He's not on the radar screen but he'll be a first-round draft choice.''

Quinn had a terrific junior season and is considered by many a front runner for the Heisman Trophy and a sure-first first round pick.

That was enough to convince Jimmy that South Bend was the right place.

Some have suggested that by picking Notre Dame, Jimmy and the Clausens are saying Tennessee simply isn't good enough.

``I definitely disagree with that,'' Jim Clausen said. ``It's not a matter of (Tennessee) not being good enough. It's a matter of where is the best fit and where does Jimmy feel most comfortable -- where did he fit best academically, socially, spiritually and athletically?''

Jim said Casey and Rick were more influential with Jimmy's choice than the father.

``I'm just a little tired of being categorized or characterized as being arrogant or pompous,'' the dad said.

Jimmy's decision came down to Notre Dame and South Carolina. Southern Cal was a distant third because Jimmy never felt comfortable on campus, the father said.

Jimmy hit it off with Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier.

``There was something special with Spurrier,'' Jim Clausen said. ``They had a chemistry somehow, someway. Steve Spurrier Jr. said his dad was excited about only one other quarterback like this – Rex Grossman.''

Jim Clausen said the family had a ``great six years'' at Tennessee. ``We enjoyed every minute of it and I'm proud of what Casey and Rick did. Casey will get his Masters in two months and he'll be successful in life. A lot of that I attribute to Tennessee.''

Jim Clausen said he told running back Marc Tyler, Jimmy's high school teammate, that UT is the best place for Tyler.

Jim Clausen said he has taken a lot of flak for arriving at the College Football Hall of Fame to make Jimmy's announcement in an 18-seat white Hummer limo. He said that was his wife's idea.

``Now, Jimmy has to live up to expectations,'' Jim said. ``You never want to put a target on your back when you're that young, I don't care who you are.''

As Jim Clausen rambled about his family's days at Tennessee, he made a few more intriguing observations.

``We're very honored to have three kids play at places like Tennessee, LSU and Notre Dame,'' Jim Clausen said. ``With that comes a lot of responsibility and criticism and shots. It's nothing Heath Shuler and Peyton Manning and Tee Martin didn't have to deal with. It's part of the process at a big-time school.

``But it's really time for us to move on. I just think there are a heckuva lot of people who have had enough of the Clausens and it's time to move on.

``Make sure your listeners and readers know we appreciated everything. We get it. We understand what it means to be parents of Tennessee football players and hopefully we didn't embarrass ourselves or the university.

``My kids competed. Were they the best? No. But they competed their butts off and I'm proud of that.''


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