Education leads Clemmons to pick Murray State
A time tested adage often heard in football circles is that if you don't hear your name come up too much as an offensive lineman then you're doing a good job.
That proved to be true during the 2015-2016 football season that saw Marshall County boast a Tennessee Titans Mr. Football Back of the Year finalist, two All-State wide receivers and two 1,000-yard rushers that culminated in rarely mentioned offensive lineman Steven Clemmons signing a Letter of Intent with Murray State on Thursday over offers from Austin Peay and East Tennessee State.
Education at top
"I ended up choosing Murray State because of the education," Clemmons offered. "Austin Peay didn't have my educational needs. Football is a blessing, but education is the most important to me. East Tennessee (State) didn't have it and when Murray State came by, I went up there and visited, I enjoyed it and I decided it was going to be my home for the next four years."
It was the polar opposite decision from teammate Payton Hood's decision to attend college in a small town (Grayson, population 4,100) and tiny student body (613 students).
Clemmons will make the move to Murray, Kentucky, population 17,500 to attend Murray State which has over 11,000 students and plays home games at Ray Stewart Stadium with a capacity of 16,800.
"I feel like Steven is playing a real high level of football, he's playing at the Division I FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) level which is an extreme high level of football," Marshall County coach Thomas Osteen said. "One thing that Steven's got that you can't teach is he loves being physical, he loves being nasty if you will. And that's something that fewer and fewer kids have these days."
"He's got to develop his lower half, his strength in his legs and his flexibility," Osteen added. "But his biggest strengths are his physicality and his passion for the game and as long as he has those two I fully see him being a starting player at Murray State somewhere down the road."
Clemmons was a leader on an offensive line that averaged 42.2 points per game during his senior season as the Tigers made it all the way to the state semi-finals for the first time in over 30 years and just the third time in school history. The Tigers were 31-18 during the offensive lineman's career including four straight TSSAA 4A playoff appearances.
A District 12-AA First Team Lineman following his junior year, Clemmons was a preseason 4A All-State pick by Murphy Fair and followed the 12-2 season with Region 4-4A Lineman of the Year award and First Team All-Region recognition.
"Steven's got a lot of God given ability," Marshall County offensive line coach Justin Perry said. "What separates him from most other lineman, especially in today's time, is he plays an old-school brand of football. He loves being physical, he loves contact, he loves the opportunity to dominate the man across from him."
"If you watch the last two years of tape he's done that numerous times and it's been a joy to watch," Perry continued. "If we had one yard to get to win a game we were running behind him without a question and that's probably the ultimate compliment any player can get."
The Racers compete in the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) under first-year coach Mitch Stewart, the youngest head coach in Division I football.
Murray State finished the 2015 season 3-8 (2-7) after losing two games by seven points or less. The Racers also played FBS opponents Northern Illinois and Western Michigan from the Mid-American Conference.
Murray State featured 19 players from Tennessee high schools on its 2015 roster and signed three other Tennesseans in the 2016 class including Mareio McGraw (Nashville Christian), Korey Tillman (Blackman) and D'Vaughn Witt (Clarksville).
"I'm looking forward to having a very fun time, a great college experience," Clemmons said. "Working out and getting a whole lot better at my craft, learning different positions and striving to be the best at it."
Clemmons will be the third Tiger to play at the Division I FCS level in 2016 along with Chris Walker at Cornell in the Ivy League and Jay Murphy at UT-Martin, also playing in the OVC.
Clemmons and teammate Payton Hood will be the fourth and fifth Tigers to go on to play college ball during coach Osteen's tenure in Lewisburg along with Walker, Cale Shelton at Tusculum and Kacy Pleas at Lindsey Wilson.
The programs resurgence under Osteen will only further the profile of the central Marshall County high school known for sending great athletes to the college ranks such as Dont'a Hightower of Alabama and the New England Patriots, Kareem Peterson at Conference-USA powerhouse Western Kentucky, Michael Murphy at Tennessee State, Stephon Johnson (Vanderbilt), Rashad Biggers (Columbia) and Ray Hightower (Carson Newman) during the early 2000s.