Though being a first round draft pick in 2004 led to a great rookie season, an injury hindered the abilities of former Bucaneer and 2011 Super Bowl Champion Michael Clayton. He said he entered a territory he had never experienced before.
With 80 catches, 1193 yards, 7 touchdowns and becoming MVP in his rookie year, Clayton said he thought his career was about to take off.
But after his first surgery, Clayton found himself at a loss.
“I didn’t know how to deal with injury at that point. It set me back a lot,” Clayton said. “I was always a positive person and a leader. This was the first time I had to deal with not being successful. I had never in my life been through such a tough time.”
Tonight, Clayton will be on campus to have an open conversation with students to offer his own advice and encouragement.
Collegiate 100, a USF student organization that focuses on mentoring at-risk youth, will host “A Conversation with Michael Clayton” tonight from 6 p.m to 8 p.m. in the Marshall Student Center Oval Theater.
Though Clayton has participated in several speaking engagements, he said he felt like the intimate setting and format will not only allow him to share his stories, but will also open up a dialogue for others to share their journeys and struggles.
“A lot of times a simple conversation leads you into what you really want to talk about,” Clayton said. “I hope it creates an atmosphere where people who are not comfortable asking questions can learn from those who do. I want to give everyone an opportunity to engage in the conversation.”
The engagement will not only be a first for Clayton, but it will be the first time Collegiate 100 will host a speaker on campus. The organization formed two years ago and is a mentoring and community service outreach program, in which students mentor and participate in community service on- and off-campus.
Because Clayton is dedicated to mentoring and giving back to the community, Assistant Director for Graduate Student Services Gary Oliver said Clayton was the perfect choice for the organization’s first speaker.
“Michael embraces the same fundamentals of what the Collegiate 100 believes in,” Oliver said. “We thought it would be a good idea to bring him to campus and try to encourage students reach their full potential.”
But professional setbacks weren’t the only thing Clayton had to deal with, he said.
He also experienced a lot of backlash from fans and media who often referred to him as a “bust.”
“I had to deal with (the backlash) for six years,” he said. “There was a certain way I had to carry myself and to learn from those experiences.”
After six rough years with the Buccaneers, Clayton joined the New York Giants and won the Super Bowl in 2011.
“The role I played on that team came from the experience that came from playing in Tampa and when I was going through my fire,” he said. “That’s why I really want to stress staying positive and always thinking about the light at the end of the tunnel, and not just the current situation during this conversation.”
Now, two years into retirement, Clayton said he wants to take his position as a role model and be as transparent as he is in his book, “Chasing My Rookie Year” to help others get in the right mindset to overcome obstacles and discover a positive mental disposition.
“Ten years later, I am still given opportunities because I believe in myself,” Clayton said. “I wasn’t scared to be a failure and I learned from my mistakes. All of these things have giving me opportunities to be successful and I think it’s one of the most valuable instincts you can have.”
Clayton will sign books after the event.