Dec. 27, 2013
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Adrian Clayborn has been to Outback Bowl practices before, but Wednesday he was a fan, not a player.
Clayborn, a consensus All-America defensive end for the University of Iowa in 2010, is in his third year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League. Clayborn visited former Hawkeye teammates and coaches Christmas Day at Jesuit High School.
"It's good to have these guys down here," Clayborn said. "It doesn't happen often that the team you played for (in college) is in your NFL team's town."
Clayborn was a sophomore at the 2009 Outback Bowl when Iowa scored the first 31 points and posted a 31-10 win against South Carolina.
"I remember Shonn Greene going off for a bunch of yards and the defense did a pretty good job against South Carolina," Clayborn said. "It was fun, I love that atmosphere in (Raymond James Stadium)."
Greene carried the ball 29 times for 121 yards and three touchdowns and was named the game's most valuable player.
"It makes you proud to be a Hawkeye. You see guys who have played at this level and doing a great job in the NFL. You drive past the Buccaneers' stadium and you see the poster of (Clayborn) up there, and this is a guy who was in the same shoes as me. He made something happen. It gives hope to us that we can do it too."
UI defensive tackle
UI junior defensive tackle Carl Davis was in his first season with the program when the defensive front of Clayborn, Karl Klug, Christian Ballard, Mike Daniels, and Broderick Binns were starters. All five landed on NFL rosters and Clayborn, Klug, and Daniels are still active in the league.
"It makes you proud to be a Hawkeye," Davis said. "You see guys who have played at this level and doing a great job in the NFL. You drive past the Buccaneers' stadium and you see the poster of (Clayborn) up there, and this is a guy who was in the same shoes as me. He made something happen. It gives hope to us that we can do it too."
Iowa is taking on No. 14 Louisiana State University in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1. The matchup brings back memories for many Hawkeye fans of the first meeting between the teams in the 2005 Capital One Bowl that ended with a 56-yard touchdown pass from Drew Tate to Warren Holloway to give Iowa a 30-25 victory.
That is a big play in Hawkeye history, but Clayborn single-handedly provided another top play during the Kirk Ferentz era. It occurred Sept. 26, 2009 at No. 4 Penn State. Rain was falling and the Hawkeyes trailed 10-5 early in the fourth quarter. Iowa forced a punt and Penn State's Jeremy Boone was back in formation. Clayborn bull-rushed past a wing blocker, got his hands on the punt, picked the slippery ball up in stride and ran 53 yards for a touchdown giving the Hawkeyes their first lead in a game they won, 21-10.
"He's a great athlete, just watch the guy," Davis said. "He is 280 (pounds) and he can move like a gazelle."
As a starter for the Buccaneers this season, Clayborn has 54 tackles and five quarterback sacks. In his 34-game NFL career, he has 98 tackles, 12.5 sacks, and five forced fumbles. Tampa Bay is 4-11 this season and closes on the road against New Orleans (10-5) on Dec. 29.
"I'm a little disappointed in the season, but hopefully we can finish this last game strong and head into the offseason with positive thoughts," Clayborn said.
Clayborn is still an avid follower of the Hawkeyes, watching or attending games whenever he can.
"When I focus and watch the defensive line you can't help but not notice the linebackers," Clayborn said. "They are playing pretty dang good. I've been watching them. I remember Carl (Davis) and a bunch of those guys were here when I was here. Watching their progress and now that they are upperclassmen, it's pretty good."
Memories of the Outback Bowl experience remain for Clayborn, five years after Iowa's last visit to Tampa.
"Now I'm used to this heat, but it was hot and it was fun," Clayborn said. "Tampa has a good bowl. I remember Beach Day and all that stuff. It was fun, it is a good ball game."
Clayborn was asked if he misses anything about the college experience.
"I miss it sometimes, but it's not a bad gig in the NFL," he said with a million dollar smile.