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Clement making the most of his chances in the backfield

Corey Clement defied odds to get his foot in the door to a professional career, and he’s not letting that chance slide by.

By Dave Spadaro

Corey Clement hit a roadblock.

The NFL just didn’t think much of his game, no matter his 36 touchdowns scored and 5.4-yard-per-carry average in college, at Wisconsin. Clement’s immediate professional football prospects were, in a word, bleak.

“Rejection doesn’t feel very good,” Clement said. “I knew I needed to do something about it.”

In the weeks leading up to last spring’s NFL Draft, Clement had a pretty good sense he wouldn’t be taken. His post-college workouts weren’t garnering much positive buzz. His measurables — height, weight, 40-yard-dash time — were nothing special.

So Clement went hard core in making himself better. He lost critical pounds, almost a dozen in all, and turned himself from a sluggish-looking running back into one who had more bounce, some power and some liveliness in his legs.

The improvement was enough for the Eagles to sign Clement after the draft. He had his foot in the door, albeit with no guarantees and certainly no promises other than he would be given a fair shot to make the Eagles’ wide-open running back depth chart.

Well, Clement did that with a strong training camp and a blemish-free preseason, and in the matter of the last three months the rookie who starred for Glassboro High School in South Jersey made himself into a valued member of the high-flying Eagles offense.

Clement has six touchdowns for the 10–1 Eagles and has contributed as a hard-charging running back, a sure-handed receiver and a core member of the special teams. He had four carries for 27 yards and a reception for 12 yards in Sunday’s 31–3 blowout win over Chicago, the team’s ninth consecutive victory.

The contribution was minimal in the statistics department, but big in the we’re-all-in-it-together lovefest that is the Eagles’ locker room.

“It’s been a dream come true,” Clement said. “I knew I wasn’t where I needed to be before the draft. I had to lose weight and become quicker and faster. I had to take control of my body and I did that. The next goal was to sign with a team, and to have the Eagles there was just amazing. I grew up dreaming about playing in Philadelphia, so I had some pinch-me moments early on.

“But then you get here and you see what the business is all about. You can’t afford to take a day off, because somebody is going to be right there to take your reps and move you out of the rotation. I wasn’t going to let that happen. Nobody was going to outwork me.”

In a backfield that includes accomplished veterans Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount, Clement has emerged as a do-everything and very trusted back. He’s averaging almost six touches per game, and perhaps most impressive has scored one touchdown for every 10 touches. It’s an incredible rate and a shockingly good first 11 games of an NFL career for a kid who wasn’t supposed to even be here.

“You have to re-write the script the way you want it to read,” Clement said. “You can’t let someone else or other circumstances dictate how your career path goes. Playing in the NFL means everything to me. Being in Philadelphia, in front of my family and friends, that’s just amazing. And here we are with this great season going on, with a locker room full of unselfish teammates, I could have never imagined my first season playing out like that.

“But it is. And I’m a professional and I have to treat it that way every day.”

Roadblocks? Clement hasn’t met one he hasn’t hurdled. He had a vision for his career, and he’s made it come true in a most unconventional fashion.

In a season of pleasant surprises for the Philadelphia Eagles, Clement ranks near the top. ••

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