Corey Clement is playing in the Super Bowl — that’s not something you might have expected based on his career path. But he, and the people around him, will tell you that’s not a surprise at all.
Clement is described as having a “phenomenal personality” by guidance counselor Mary Beth Ragazzino at his alma mater, Glassboro High School. But with his personality came athletic gifts, even if they weren’t always recognized when they should have been.
He was a four-star recruit coming out of high school. However, NFL evaluators seriously doubted him, and it became a tough road for the running back. Now, he’s the one with a chance at a Lombardi Trophy.
It all started at Glassboro High School in New Jersey.
Glassboro — which is about 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia — is a small school, with around 550 students. Clement graduated in a class of about 150. Because of the intimacy of the school and town, he was able to form close relationships with those around him.
One of those included Ragazzino, who would drive a black 1995 BMW 525m to school on occasion. She first met Clement when he was in elementary school, where she was his counselor. As the years went on, she would be transferred to the high school, though wasn’t Clement’s counselor there. But they still maintained a friendship.
“I had a friendship with him and he would notice the car,” Ragazzino told SB Nation. Clement liked the car so much, that he and Ragazzino made a bet that if he ever got picked in the NFL draft, he could have the car.
Ragazzino said he would tell her, “I look in your parking spot every time I come to school to see if you have the car.”
She said, “We would go back and forth, so I made him the promise from when he was in ninth grade.” It was a fun wager between friends, but would later become a real thing.
He waited his turn at Wisconsin, and it paid off.
When you’re a stud football player in high school, it can be difficult to wait in line at the collegiate level. But Clement played behind some NFL talent that he was able to learn from.
As a true freshman in 2014, he was backup to James White and Melvin Gordon — both who would become NFL running backs. He backed up Gordon again as a sophomore, before being the feature back in the 2015 season, only to injure his groin. He played in just four games that season, but was able to showcase what he’s capable of in his senior season.
In 2016, he played in 13 games, rushing for 1,375 yards and 15 touchdowns. The Badgers would knock off Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl that season, 24-16.
But going into the NFL draft, he was projected as a sixth or seventh round prospect. An NFC North scout said of Clement, “He checked out mentally on the entire 2015 season and wasn’t very well liked inside that program. Then you add durability concerns and that’s a problem.”
He didn’t get drafted, but got his opportunity, and his car.
Clement went undrafted in 2017, and was actually at Glassboro the day of, where Ragazzino had the car. While he wasn’t drafted, he would sign with the Eagles on May 11, and played in his first NFL game against Washington on Sept. 10.
He saw his first carries in Week 3 against the Giants, where he also scored his first NFL touchdown on a 15-yard run.
The week before Thanksgiving, Ragazzino asked Clement when he wanted to come pick up the car, even though he didn’t get drafted.
They arranged for him to pick it up, and the Saturday after Thanksgiving, he got it.
I won't be covering the Eagles and I'm not even in Philly yet, but just heard a cool story about Eagles RB Corey Clement. When he was at Glassboro HS (in NJ), his guidance counselor told him that if he ever made the NFL, she'd give him her BMW. So she did. (CC @EliotShorrParks) pic.twitter.com/cRjuqDyGaW— Zack Rosenblatt (@ZackBlatt) November 28, 2017
The next day, the Eagles played the Bears at home. Clement had 39 yards from scrimmage in a 31-3 win. They aren’t eye-popping numbers, but for Clement, who had all odds against him, got his car, and was getting touches on a 10-1 Eagles team.
He still proved himself in his rookie season.
Since his first game action in Week 3, he’s been sprinkling in contributions in both the rushing and receiving game. In the regular season, Clement had 321 yards on just 74 carries to go with four touchdowns. He’s also had 10 receptions for 123 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 targets.
Those aren’t huge numbers, but for an undrafted rookie, that’s a solid season considering the odds were low he’d be in the NFL anyway. He’s been able to go from undrafted, to dancing on the field with LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi to Cardi B:
Reason why Bodak Yellow is nominated cause no matter how much you front !you turn up like this when it comes on Greatful and Thankful .I already feel like a winner !! Eagles.... pic.twitter.com/lA9bxvljz6— iamcardib (@iamcardib) November 28, 2017
“It’s been a pretty up and down road I’ve been on this past year,” Clement said at Super Bowl opening night. “Been nonstop every since that last game down in Dallas with Wisconsin. Things are moving at a fast pace, so I’m just making sure I stay focused. That’s been my biggest key.”
Now, he’s going to do something a lot of players haven’t been able to say over the course of their NFL careers — play in a Super Bowl.
The Eagles have been underdogs all postseason, but Clement and his teammates don’t mind it. “We’ve been the underdogs for a few weeks now,” he said. “We’ve been the underdogs in our own house, which is kinda crazy ... we love it. Pretty sure we’ll see some dog masks in the stands rooting for us. We’re not going to let it phase us.”
Glassboro will be supporting Clement with a pep rally this upcoming Friday. It only seems appropriate, since he goes home often. He was even at a basketball game last week after winning the NFC Championship. “He’s just a hometown boy,” Ragazzino said.
They also like his odds in the Super Bowl — Ragazzino said, “I’ve already taken off for the parade.”