Clary making the most of opportunities

A.J. Smith loves spending low-round draft picks on offensive tackles. During his four drafts as general manager of the Chargers, Smith has drafted five offensive tackles in or after round three.  

Courtney Van Buren, Carlos Joseph and Wesley Britt are no longer with the team; Shane Olivea has been the starter at right tackle since he was drafted in 2004; and Jeromey Clary was drafted in the sixth round this year to challenge and possibly supplant Olivea.

Clary, a 6-foot-6, 304 lb. right tackle from Kansas State, hopes to reverse the Chargers' recent trend of disappointing tackle selections.

"I felt good during the Mini Camp," Clary said. "When the veteran guys are in there's a lot of sitting back and waiting, but I think I did well when I was out there. You have to make the most of the chances you get."

Clary has been making the most out of his opportunities since early in his college career. He received All-Conference and All-Academic honors for each of his sophomore, junior and senior seasons. He adapted quickly to the college game, and predicts his transition to the pros will go just as smoothly.

"I have a pretty good learning curve," Clary said. "I had a good one in college, so I don't see why it would be any different in the pros."

If he can adapt quickly enough, Clary has a chance to win the starting job at right tackle, possibly by opening day. The spot has seemingly been thrown open, with both Shane Olivea and Cory Lekkerkerker takings snaps there this offseason.

"I really don't know about the starting position," Clary said. "Right now I'm just worrying about myself and what I'm doing, but by the time the season starts, who knows?"

Interestingly enough, the players he's competing against are the same ones who have been helping him transition to the pro game.

"All the guys have offered bits and pieces to help me out. Shane will turn around every once and a while and let me in on something," Clary said.

As helpful as his fellow linemen have been, Clary has to look down to see the face that makes him feel most welcome. Darren Sproles, the Chargers' 5-foot-6 running back and return specialist, played with Clary at Kansas State. Sproles rushed for over 3,300 yards while running often behind Clary in 2003 and 2004.

"It's great seeing Darren here," Clary said. "He doesn't talk much, so he doesn't really help me with the playbook or anything, but it's nice just to have a familiar face around."

If Clary can do for LaDainian Tomlinson what he did for Sproles at Kansas State, A.J. Smith will have finally found a tackle late in the draft of whom he can be proud.

SD Super Chargers Top Stories