Jamaal Clayborn never knew that making a few snaps in pee wee league would foreshadow his football future.
Clayborn drew from that childhood experience last spring when he was shifted to center prior to his junior year at Mississippi State.
To prepare for his snapping responsibilities, Clayborn spent most of the summer out on the Bulldogs’ practice fields with quarterback Dak Prescott to develop a chemistry with him and hone his new craft.
“I spent countless hours out there,” Clayborn said. “We’d be out there from midday to almost sundown. We’d work at it all day long.”
By the time the season rolled around, Clayborn felt like a center even though he had never snapped in a collegiate game until the opener against Southern Miss. The 6-foot-4, 315-pounder went on to start every regular season game at center this past fall.
“It became second nature to me,” Clayborn said. “I did it every single day. Now that I’m more confident, I can concentrate more on what I have to do.”
Clayborn sustained an injury to his right ankle on the first day of bowl practice in Charlotte, North Carolina and missed MSU’s Belk Bowl victory.
The former Jackson Academy standout’s season was full of learning experiences at his new position after spending his first two years in Starkville at guard.
“At guard you have more time and distance between the defender,” Clayborn said. “At center it’s more quick and compact. You’ve also got to communicate more and know what everybody has to do compared to just you doing your job.”
In all, Clayborn has appeared in 23 games over his career.
Clayborn feels that center is the right position for him to achieve his goal of reaching the NFL and has just the right coach in place to ensure he gets a shot at playing on Sundays.
“I’ve settled in real well,” Clayborn said. “I believe that coach (John) Hevesy does a great job helping you to be in the best position. He’s sent a lot of guys to the next level. He can put you in a position here in this program and it’ll transfer over to the next level.”