But after the Combine, concerns were raised about the discovery of a calcified stress fracture in his foot that could turn out to be a long-term issue that would eventually require surgery.
It was news to a lot of talent evaluators, but it was also news to Clemmings. He had suffered the injury early in his college career with the Panthers and couldn’t pinpoint exactly when it happened. To him, it was a non-issue. He started all 26 games Pitt played over the last two seasons, earning first-team All-ACC honors and getting some All-America honors.
But, as the draft ground through its second day, Clemmings stayed on the board. And stayed. And stayed. And stayed.
From his side of things, his foot wasn’t an issue – a view that clearly wasn’t shared by the NFL.
“There was a concern with my foot, but I have no concerns with my so-called injury,” Clemmings said. “It’s an old issue, but I’ve never had any problem. I have no concerns with it and I’m not worried about it.”
He spent all night Friday watching his stock fall, but he tried to keep a positive attitude about it, knowing that eventually his name would get called.
“It felt unfortunate to me,” Clemmings said. “But, it all worked out. I knew it was going to work out in the long run. I knew it was just something that was a minor setback for now and all it was going to do was place me with the right organization. After I knew that and I believed that, I didn’t worry any further.”
The worst part for Clemmings was that, while he knew some teams would devalue him, all he needed was to step up. Complicating matters was that, based on his performance, he had expectations of where he would be drafted.
“The end of the first into the second (round),” Clemmings said. “That’s where I thought I would fall. It didn’t happen that way, but where I am is where I was supposed to be.”
Making adjustments on the fly is nothing new for Clemmings. He didn’t play football until his junior year of high school, because his mom thought football was too violent. He emerged quickly as one of New Jersey’s top prep defensive ends and fielded several college offers. Two years into his college career, he was asked to move from defensive end to offensive tackle – completely changing his playing mindset from attacking to protecting.
< br> He took to it quickly, but there was a pretty significant learning curve.
“Just learning football from the opposite side of the ball – new terminology, new techniques,” Clemmings said. “It was a little tough, but I was able to get through that and learn.”
Draft weekend didn’t go as Clemmings had planned. With the realistic expectation of becoming an NFL player on Friday, waiting until today was a disappointment, but realizing his dream – albeit a bit later than hoped – was the bottom line that Clemmings is focused on moving forward.
“I was a little surprise to me,” Clemmings said. “But we stayed real positive and we just kept saying, ‘the right team will draft you at the right time.’ I believe that. I kept saying that. My family kept saying that. I got the call from Minnesota today and I believe I’m at the right place. The coaching staff, they believed in me. They chose me and gave me an opportunity and I’m very, very grateful for it and I’m going to make the best of it.”
(Photos from USA TODAY Sports)