Sean Clifford’s Swan Song Was The Best Thing College Football Could Have Been
PASADENA, California — As receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith dashed into the end zone to take Penn State a 28-14 lead, quarterback Sean Clifford received down on one knee, seemed down the sphere about 100 yards from his teammates, and fled. A second of solitude in entrance of greater than 90,000 folks.
The move simply minutes in the past was a phenomenal factor, hitting Lambert-Smith in full stride as he pierced Utah’s defenses from above. Functionally, it was a landing that turned Penn State’s unsure seven-point lead right into a extra comfy margin. For a quarterback taking part in in his final sport as Nittany Lion, he was far more emotionally.
Songwriter Meek Mill as soon as mentioned “I prayed for occasions like this” in his music “Desires and Nightmares” and what a dream it was for Clifford beneath a wet Pasadena sky Monday afternoon. 22 by 16,279 yards, two touchdowns wasn’t statistically one of the best of his profession—he had seven extra passes and three extra yards in 2022 alone—however his timing, the exclamation mark over one of many largest levels, made him that far. It was what made it particular.
As a result of regardless of every part that makes him totally different from most individuals, Sean Clifford is quite a bit like all of us. He is flawed, he is simply attempting to work onerous and hopes that is sufficient to get him the place he needs to go. In nice school soccer, there may be an expectation that quarterbacks will merely get higher and higher and higher, eager to be good supersedes every part – tangible or in any other case – that actually goes to being elite. In actuality, a number of anomalies will happen right here or there, however quarterbacks usually are not developed on a linear airplane. They get higher and extra skilled, however in some unspecified time in the future all of them hit a plateau, which is never the place most individuals need it to be, and there is nothing anybody can do about it.
In a way, Clifford was all the time destined to lag behind the objectives he actually needed to realize as a result of soccer is the race to delay failure the longest, relatively than keep away from failure. Fittingly, former Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, as soon as the verbally dedicated quarterback of Penn State’s future and the quarterback who ultimately changed Clifford, had a profession in live performance with Clifford that fell in need of those self same objectives. Fields failed, and did so with groups that had been objectively higher than the groups Penn State had run all through the division. It is a testomony to the truth that profitable in school soccer is equally expertise, after which simply hoping your expertise makes up for the insane algorithm of jumps, calls, errors, and success thrown into the equation at odds with no rhyme or motive. Fields looks like a superb quarterback with a budding NFL profession, however even he could not recover from the character of the beast.
Clifford’s largest crime for some Penn State followers is that he by no means turned the quarterback he would have been. Whereas Penn State’s provocative closeness to one thing extra has dampened the endurance of many followers, Clifford’s incapacity to beat Ohio State and get a very significant win over Michigan looms giant on his resume – these ends in actuality usually extra advanced than that of his proper arm and between his ears.
He nonetheless failed, however nonetheless stood up.
Regardless of every part that made Clifford an occasional polarizing Rorschach quarterback check, Clifford will depart Penn State with 31 sport wins in his 4 years as a starter – filled with a 10-win season and an 11-win season. Whereas Penn State’s struggles in 2021 solely spotlight the worth a wholesome Clifford brings to the desk, the 12 months of COVID-19 is an excuse to seek out fault. Each years have been removed from excellent, however neither of those Penn State groups was *solely* quarterback removed from far more.
All of this apart, there’s a humanity on this too. Someplace on the very starting of Clifford’s profession, he dreamed of video games just like the one he performed on Monday. Lengthy purpose passes, he dreamed of beating the Prime 10 and taking part in in entrance of a sea of followers within the Rose Bowl. You may’t get into playmaking points with out these desires; You do not topic your self to lengthy hours and public scrutiny with out the eager for the moments when it really works. You do not fail in entrance of 1000’s of individuals with out hoping to succeed at some point.
That is what makes school soccer and school sports activities so nice. Time is restricted for all of us, however this may very well be his final as a soccer participant as Clifford was given a curtain name and left the pitch with tears in his eyes and the gang roaring in approval. In actuality, Clifford can have one thing to do with the quarterback going ahead for some time, however what and for a way lengthy is unknown. He might discover his place on an NFL roster or in Canada or Europe, however the probably final result is that Clifford’s soccer profession is on the decrease finish of the bell curve.
And there is romance in realizing that and seeing Clifford play the way in which he performed Monday. Within the downturn of his Penn State profession, with followers desirous to see freshman Drew Allar take the cost, Clifford managed to make everybody neglect the long run and savor the current. Satirically, if he had been in a position to do that sooner, most of the issues he is achieved at Penn State would have been extra appreciated than they had been.
“I am comfortable for him,” mentioned James Franklin after the match. “Penn State has seen every part all through his profession, and at Penn State it is not simply how we do it on the soccer area, it is also how we do it within the classroom and locally, and he is completed it on the highest stage the complete time. School soccer is about it and Penn State is about it.
When all is claimed and completed, Sean Clifford’s profession has been the romance of life, it is form of like a heat California rain simply attempting to get all of it labored out after which savoring these moments when every part comes collectively and all you possibly can really feel is pleasure. washing away the issues that got here earlier than. Residing within the second so long as you possibly can maintain on to it.
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