LHS grad Curtis Clay earns NFL shot with America’s Team
By Kathi Bliss
During the late summer and early fall every year, all Texas eyes turn toward Arlington. Whether it’s a matter of fan-dom or fierceness, whether it’s done with delight or disdain, the Dallas Cowboys are the team we love to love, or the team we love to hate.
This year, Lockhart has good reason to have their eyes and hearts trained on the True Blue, with that love and hate being replaced with a pure sense of pride.
Lockhart native Curtis Clay announced via Twitter on Friday morning, and the Cowboys organization confirmed, that he earned the chance this year to don the blue and silver and earned a spot on the preseason roster of America’s Team.
“Playing in the NFL has always been a dream of mine, but it wasn’t until the last few years that I thought it could actually become a reality,” Clay said via email over the weekend. “After my senior season at TCU, I decided to go for it. Why not?”
He said he spent his time training and last week, that training offered its first reward.
During the next two weeks, Clay will be in heavy competition with other members of the pre-season team, currently some 90 members, which will be whittled down to 75, and then finally to 53 members before the start of the regular season.
“I don’t know how long I’ll be a Cowboy, but I’m making the most of it now, and doing my best to make an impression on the coaching staff so they can keep me around here.”
Clay’s father, Curtis, Sr., was nearly speechless with pride on Monday morning, after having taken the trek to Arlington on Sunday to watch practices.
“There really isn’t any word to describe it,” the elder Clay said. “I went up there and he didn’t know I was there until after the practice. But it was incredible to watch my son, in that stadium, out on that field.”
The drive to succeed, both men said, started at home with the Burrhus-Clay family, and has permeated every aspect of the lives not only of the Cowboys new No. 2 wide receiver, but also his three sisters.
“They all participated in sports when they were in school,” Clay, Sr., said. “It’s important for young people to learn about being on a team, and the discipline that comes from being a part of that.”
Although sports were important, the younger Clay, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism from TCU, said that education was equally as high, if not higher, on his priority list.
“While I always had dreams to play in the NFL, I knew the odds,” he said. “So I valued my education and made the most of my time at TCU.”
In addition to earning Academic All Mountain West Conference for four years and being named NCSA Strength and Conditioning All-American last year, Clay also earned the Arthur Ashe, Jr., Scholar-Athlete awards, and is one class away from earning a master’s degree in Education Administration.
If the pre-season doesn’t bring a permanent position on the Cowboys roster, he will finish his degree this year, he said.
“Playing for a great program at TCU, it helped put me on a platform to lead and serve others,” he said. “I just wanted to use that platform to be a positive role model.”
Depending on the road his career takes this year, he admits that football is part of his plan. If not on the field with the Cowboys, he wants to use his education, leadership and skill to be a high school football coach and athletic director.
His father agrees that Clay’s current situation is the opportunity of a lifetime, a lifetime in the making.
“His first word wasn’t ‘mama’ or ‘daddy,’” the elder said with a laugh. “It was ‘touchdown!’ In fact, he was sitting on my lap in my chair, and we were watching the Cowboys… they scored, and I yelled ‘touchdown,’ and he said it right after me. He babbled some, but that was the first word we really heard and understood out of him.”
That word was a precursor for things to come.
Sunday, Clay watched his son snag a 65-yard diving touchdown pass from John Kitna – his first pro touchdown.
“It was a really neat moment,” he said. “Curtis has always had great hands. He may not have been the biggest guy on the field, but he’s always had this incredible hand-eye coordination, and he’s just amazing to watch.”
Those hands will likely be in action on Sunday, wearing Number 81 as the Cowboys face of with the San Diego Chargers at Cowboys Stadium. It’s a long way to Arlington from Lions’ Field, but a journey filled with confidence and pride, humility and inspiration.
“I truly believe that if you want something bad enough and are willing to put in the work, you can accomplish anything.”
**UPDATED Friday, Sept. 2, 2011; 11:06 a.m.**
It is with great sadness we report that Curtis Clay announced this week that he was released from the Dallas Cowboys’ lineup on Monday, Aug. 29.