Wisconsin RB John Clay Entering the NFL Draft

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Back in the preseason, I published an article entitled “One more year then NFL for Wisconsin’s John Clay?”

Today, that became prophesy as a Milwaukee newspaper reports Clay will forgo his final year of eligibility to enter the NFL draft. So what are his strengths and weaknesses? What does he bring to the NFL table?

Here we re-publish that article, based off my Big Ten Media Day exclusive with him, answering all those questions and more

Remember the Barry Alvarez era, when it seemed like the Wisconsin Badgers had a genuine phobia for the forward pass? Well that “emphasis” on the run certainly produced some great linemen and running backs.

For the last couple decades, the Wisconsin program and tailbacks have gone together like marijuana smoking and reggae music. Ron Dayne, Brent Moss, Terrell Fletcher, Michael Bennett, P.J. Hill, the names go on and on.

6-1, 250 lb junior John Clay is the latest in the line. Even though his yards per carry dipped .2, Clay made a big jump forward last year. He nearly doubled his rushing yardage, running for 1,517 yards and 18 TDs. This earned him the Big Ten offensive player of the year award. He later added the MVP trophy from the Champs Sports Bowl to his collection.

So if he takes another similar step forward this season, does that mean he’s going to forgo his senior season, and enter the NFL Draft?

“The harder style of running back I am, I can have a lot of years in the league if I go. It all plays a role in my decision,” Clay said at Media Day.

Of course, if there’s no league in 2011 due to labor strife, Clay’s decision will be made for him. His draft stock will increase greatly is he slims down and tones up, as he gained weight after two ankle surgeries. Clay is feeling fine these days however.

“Right after I woke up from anesthesia I felt the difference right away, from the pressure leaving my ankles, and I just felt good about getting ready to run with the team,” Clay said.

He can’t wait to join his teammates:

“I’m looking forward to being out on the grind with them, sweating, bleeding and the blood everywhere, it’s like family out there,” he continued.

The Racine native told me what he thinks his greatest attributes are, “me willing to learn the game and being there wanting to work hard.” And conversely what he needs to improve: “staying more consistent, and keep going in a positive path, not taking two steps forward, and three back.”

Clay also told me about his tendency to play possum with his opponents- making them think he’s hurt, he’s down, and just when they think they’ve gotten to him…that’s when he breaks off his biggest runs. And he learned this style from his role model.

“My all-time idol is Jim Brown, I wear that number because of him, I model my game after him. The defense surrounded him just to stop the run. And that’s how I feel it is for us since we’re a run-happy team,” Clay said.

So is this year Clay’s last in Madison? If he has another big year like ’09, and if there’s no NFL work stoppage, then yes, probably. He has the skill set and this year’s upcoming draft running back class isn’t the strongest.

Written by Paul M. Banks, CEO of The Sports Bank.net. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now,  Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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