His high school coach, Jody Stone, told Prep Atlantic Recruiting that Clayton was "... a muscular guy who can run between the tackles and gain that extra yard with his power. He is very fast and agile, and reminds me of Peter Warrick or Barry Sanders when he cuts and uses his vision."
After an intense recruiting battle, Clayton signed in Feb., 2002 with Florida State over Notre Dame, North Carolina, Virginia, Northwestern and many others. But Clayton failed to make the initial impact he had hoped on the Florida State program in his freshman year-- he appeared in only four games and carried the ball only 13 times for a total of 45 yards. After being asked by the Seminole coaching staff to bulk up and try for the fullback position, Clayton made the decision to transfer and was granted his release by FSU Coach Bobby Bowden.
Clayton took a visit to Northwestern three weeks ago. Newspaper accounts initially indicated Clayton would sign with the Wildcats, but for reasons that are still unclear, he did not. (After Clayton visited Northwestern, noted recruiting analyst Tom Lemming told The Daily Northwestern newspaper, "Thomas Clayton would be Northwestern's centerpiece. He'd be their best catch in years.")
Schools such as Penn State, Nebraska and Iowa also expressed an interest in Clayton.
Vanderbilt had hoped to sign one running back in the class of 2003, but did not. The Commodore staff made a run at a number of high-profile running backs, but came up empty.
Bobby Johnson's staff stayed in contact with Clayton and convinced him to make a visit to the Vanderbilt campus, which he did last weekend. Clayton was present for a Saturday spring practice session and toured the campus. The Feb. 26 edition of The Tennessean reported that Clayton "told Vandy's coaches he'll finish his career with the Commodores if he is admitted into school. His transcript has been submitted, and a decision on his acceptance could come by the end of the week."
It's not a done deal yet, but chances appear good that Clayton will be a Commodore by next fall. After sitting out the mandatory year following a transfer, he would become eligible as a sophomore in the 2004 season and have three years of eligibility left with the Commodores. With reported 4.32 speed in the 40-yard dash, he should be able to help the Commodores immediately.
At Mt. Vernon High School in Alexandria, Clayton gained over 1600 yards and scored 17 touchdowns as a junior, and gained over 1,600 yards with 19 touchdowns as a senior. He led his school to the AAA Division 5 title. A durable back, Clayton carried the ball as many as 41 times in a single game.