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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Clemons shines one last time

Photo by Robert O’Brien

Graduate student DL Micheal Clemons (2) sacks LSU quarterback Max Johnson (14) at Tiger Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2021.

In a dungeon-esque closet masquerading as a visitors’ media room at the south end of Tiger Stadium, graduate defensive end Micheal Clemons walked through the door protected by a stern security guard, over which the athlete towered. The room, tucked away in the catacombs of the stadium’s tunnels, was partially closed off by a broken door that let in the revelry of elated LSU fans, much to the dismay of the small array of media members inside. As he walked in, Clemons, both in personality and stature, seemed to fill and silence the entire stadium.

He didn’t have much to say, speaking almost entirely in short, heartfelt sentences. 

“Any time you lose, it’s not a good feeling,” Clemons said, with long pauses before and after.

After five years at A&M and four years on the gridiron in maroon and white, words couldn’t quite describe the heartbreak Clemons felt. A rocky journey through college football ended with undoubtedly his best personal performance, but also with a last-minute, 27-24 defeat that failed to reflect the brotherhood the team shares.

To cap off his last NCAA season, the Garland native matched his season total in sacks in just four quarters. Bringing LSU quarterback Max Johnson to the ground 3.5 times on the rainy Saturday night, Clemons finished the season with 7.0 sacks, good for third on the team. This high game total had not been reached since Myles Garrett had 4.5 sacks against UTSA in 2016, and not against a Power Five opponent since Daeshon Hall had 4.0 against Arizona State in 2015.

“He had a bunch of [sacks]. He did a heck of a job. Played hard, always does,” A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Micheal always plays hard; he puts his heart and soul in everything he does. He’s had a tremendous year.”

While it may seem appropriate to describe Clemons’ day as bittersweet through the setting of personal milestones even in loss, nothing about Clemons’ nature after the game indicated any hint of sugar. 

Clemons endured the barrage of questions after the game from the media, and as time went on, his answers opened up, reflecting more on his felt pain in the loss.

“Plays were definitely left on the field. We go back and re-evaluate,” Clemons said. “There are definitely plays that could have been made that would have had a different outcome. But it is what it is now.”

A&M had not always been the apparent destination for Clemons, who began his collegiate career in 2016 at Cisco Junior College. As a 3-star JUCO prospect, Clemons was recruited by former A&M coach Kevin Sumlin in 2017 and played in all of theat season’s games, but he redshirted in 2018 when Fisher took over the program.

That 2019 season was Clemons’ rise on the team, as he became a starter in nine games and capitalized with 28 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. But halfway through 2020’s COVID-19-stricken season in which Clemons was becoming a standout on the defensive line, a leg injury sidelined him for the rest of the year.

Clemons, no stranger to adversity, returned to play in 2021, starting and ending the season in polar opposites. Just a week before the Aggies’ first game, he was arrested in Brazos County and indefinitely suspended from the team. The suspension held through the season opener, and it was uncertain if he would ever return to play.

But the next week against Colorado, the suspension was lifted. In the game, Clemons recorded four total tackles and two QB hurries en route to the Aggies’ 10-7 win.

“[Clemons’] ability to come back, wanting to come back and showing leadership [sets him apart],” Fisher said. “There’s not a guy who practices harder on every play. He plays in the game, he plays in practice and he loves playing ball and he’s become a heck of a football player.”

During his time wearing maroon and white, Clemons developed not only as a player, but as a teammate and leader as well. In an interview with TexAgs’ Billy Luicci, Clemons said he gained perspective of his potential.

“When I first got [to A&M], it was just me,” Clemons said. “When I was in junior college, it was just me. But I began to see what I could do and what kind of leader I could be.”

With his newfound perspective, Clemons became a leader among the Aggies’ defense. And while the hurt of the loss is personal for him, it is also on behalf of the rest of the team. More than anything from the season, Clemons has valued what he can provide to A&M’s program and its young players.

With only the 2021 season’s bowl game standing between Clemons and the NFL Draft — where he is projected to be selected as highly as a second-round pick — he can take pride in what he has passed on within the program and aim to finish on a high note.

“Keep the juice, keep the energy and take it all into the next game and lay it all out there; end the season the right way,” Clemons said.

After six years of college football, there is no one perfect descriptor for Clemons’ journey. Bumpy, troubled and disastrous paint the picture of the low end of his path, but inspiring, triumphant and mold-breaking encapsulate his high points.

Through it all, Clemons certainly developed on the field, but even more so as a teammate, citing the emotional aspects of his time with the Aggies’ as the pinnacle of what he has learned.

“[I’ve learned] perseverance, hard work, family. I love my brothers, my coaches,” Clemons said. “It’s the school overall, man. It’s a great place, and I’ll never forget it.”

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