Snapshot: Toney Clemons

Steelers give seventh-round pick Toney Clemons a wide-open path the the job as the No. 5 wide receiver -- even if some want to call him "Clarence."

At first blush such a suggestion is inappropriate at best and blasphemous at worst. Toney Clemons isn't Clarence Clemons.

As a lifelong devotee of "The Boss" (if all goes according to plan career Bruce Springsteen concert No. 50 will be witnessed in September in Washington, D.C., between Steelers-Denver and Steelers-Jets), I'm well aware there will never be another "Big Man."

But the Clemons from Colorado via Michigan via Valley High School in New Kensington has a chance to be the Steelers' next big receiver.

That's not quite like reprising the sax solo from "Jungleland," but it might be something new OC Todd Haley ultimately finds even more appealing.

At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds Clemons has the size. And as a "mid-4.4 guy" according to Steelers wide receivers coach Scottie Montgomery, as a guy who reportedly pulled off a 4.36 at Colorado's pre-draft Pro Day, Clemons has the speed.

Better still Clemons has, in Montgomery's estimation, the makeup to hold his own in a wide receiver's meeting room that includes the likes of Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace (presumably) and Emmanuel Sanders, guys who seemingly enjoy talking a good game even more than they do playing one.

"You have to have the personality to come into our room and be successful," Montgomery explained. "It's a room that's going to challenge any receiver to come in and compete.

"But most of the time it's going to challenge receivers who can't come in and compete on a daily basis."

Brown, Wallace and Sanders usually see to that. And failing that, Montgomery will "stir and create competition when I need to."

Clemons, thus, is going to have to take whatever it is he's able to glean from the opportunity the Steelers presented him by drafting him on the seventh round (231st overall). Nothing is going to be handed to him just because he possesses an un-Steelers-like combination of size and speed.

The good news is he had to seize the latter stages of his final collegiate season just to get this far.

Clemons first attended Michigan (the first game the Wolverines played when Clemons was a true freshman resulted in a loss to Appalachian State at home in 2007). At the end of his second season he had 12 career catches and a pretty good idea that Michigan might not be the place for him after all.

After moving on to Colorado Clemons redshirted and then spent the next season and a half remaining mostly invisible.

But with five games left in his fifth-year senior campaign, something clicked.

"Those last five or six games it was, ‘My career's coming to an end in college, what do I want to do with it?'" Clemons recalled of his mindset at the time. "‘How do I want to be defined as a player?'

"I turned it up in practice, turned up the preparation and gained the confidence of my offensive coordinator and my head coach. Coach (Eric) Bieniemy (the OC) decided, ‘let's give this kid the opportunity in games we've been giving him in practice.'

"I got a chance to go against top competition and make plays and show the type of player I am and go out with a bang."

Clemons' finishing kick consisted of 25 catches for 476 yards and five TDs over his final five games. Three times he went over 100 yards receiving and had 97 on another occasion. Against USC, he caught five balls for 112 yards and two scores.

"The one thing that stood out to me, he won a tremendous amount of contested balls," Montgomery said.

That wasn't enough to get Clemons invited to the scouting combine but it got the Steelers' attention.

Clemons' winning personality – turns out he has a little in common with the "Big Man" after all – did the rest.

"We had the ability to have him in the building, to sit with coaches, several of us," Montgomery said. "I thought he was a young man that was hungry for an opportunity who had the film of late to back it up."

Next came rookie camp, the OTAs and minicamp.Clemons was often noticeable on the receiving end of passes and during special teams periods, and now there's no looking back.

No wondering why he had to bounce from one school to the next, how playing for four head coaches (five if you count Colorado interim head coach Brian Cabral for three games in 2010) and four offensive coordinators in five years might have impacted his game, his development, draft status and his shot at realizing his NFL dream.

"It worked out for me," Clemons said. "The whole experience made me a better person first and a better player second.

"I've reached my goal. I have this opportunity. I have to make the most of it."


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