Dec. 7, 2010
HOUSTON, Texas -- Adrian Clayborn had an excellent excuse for being fashionably late Tuesday at the Rotary Lombardi Award functions in the Hilton Houston Americas.
Iowa's 6-foot-4, 285-pound All-American defensive end was finishing an academic test in Iowa City on Monday evening before he could fly to Houston with his mother and a family friend. Clayborn is the first Hawkeye to be a finalist for the Lombardi Award, given annually to the nation's top lineman. The other three finalists are Clemson junior defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, Auburn junior defensive tackle Nick Fairley and Texas Christina senior center Jake Kirkpatrick.
Clayborn arrived in Houston at approximately 1 p.m. (CT) and for the next seven hours, it was nearly nonstop action. He was measured for a tuxedo and then autographed 400 souvenir programs, 100 helmets and a handful of footballs.
The finalists joined Ana Rodriguez, Miss Texas USA, for a trip to the Cuney Homes YMCA, where they played with and spoke to children as part of a community outreach activity. Later that evening they attended a private reception at Houston City Hall for the Lombardi finalists, VIP guests and school representatives. It was here that the finalists were introduced by radio personality John Harris of 1560 AM The Game in Houston.
"He may not say this, but knowing the national scene in college football like I do, the one play that he became most well-known for was actually a play he probably shouldn't have even been in that place to begin with," Harris said. "Penn State, two years ago as a junior, rainy night, down in the fourth quarter, fourth-and-short, got your punt-safe team on the field and No. 94 breaks through, blocks the punt, catches it on the hop, takes it to the end zone, Iowa wins a big game on the road. From that point forward, No. 94 for the University of Iowa, Adrian Clayborn, became a star."
"My coach told me to chill out and just stay on line, but when you see a guy 210 pounds standing across from you, you have to go for it," said Clayborn, to a room full of laughter.
"You went for it throughout your career," Harris added.
Harris asked Clayborn why he returned to the UI, despite having "a lot of dollars looking at you at the next level."
"To get my education," Clayborn said. "Football isn't promised forever, so I had to get that. My mom wanted me to go back. I wanted to enjoy my senior season and senior day and everything that goes along with senior year. I don't regret it, I'm glad I went back."
Now Clayborn is eyeing a third consecutive bowl game, this time a Dec. 28 meeting with Missouri in the Insight Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.
"I'm going to enjoy this month with my teammates and the seniors that have been with me four years," Clayborn said.
Michael Ragusa is Clayborn's host during his two-day stay in Houston. Last season Ragusa hosted Terrence Cody of Alabama.
"Adrian is a well-rounded, respectful young man," Ragusa said. "I'm impressed with him. He's a charm to be around."
Clayborn will wake at 6 a.m. on Wednesday for another full day of activities that won't end until 9:30 p.m. The awards ceremony will be held from 7:45-9 p.m. in the George R. Brown Convention Center.