For UM tight end Clive Walford, football is now a family matter

Fatherhood has turned Clive Walford into a more mature, driven young man, and he’s working harder than ever on and off the field with hopes of becoming the next great tight end at UM.

09/18/2013 12:00 AM

02/27/2014 12:09 AM

Clive Walford has a sleek new haircut, precious new son and proud new attitude.

Now all the Miami tight end needs is some old-school Hurricanes production.

“My overall favorite tight end is Kellen Winslow,” Walford said of the former Cane, recalling Winslow’s famous “It’s about this U!” rant after Miami’s 2003 loss to Tennessee. “I always looked up to him when I was younger.”

Walford, UM’s third-leading receiver as a sophomore last season with 451 yards and four touchdowns on 25 catches, said baby Clive III — born Aug. 2 — has afforded him a fresh perspective and burning desire to do right by his namesake.

His closely cropped haircut, which he gave himself after 6 1/2 years of growing dreadlocks, has added to Walford’s new, more serious image. He said he and his late cousin grew dreads together. The two made a pact that when the cousin’s hair “caught up” to Walford’s length, Walford would get shorn.

Tragically, his cousin died in a car accident Walford’s freshman year.

“I felt like this was probably the time he would have caught me,” noted Walford, 21, who said he decided on the haircut in August but needed more time to muster the courage.

“It took almost an hour to cut my first dread — my fiancée cut that one. Then it took not even six minutes to cut the rest. Once I snipped my first one, I was snipping away.”

He pulled out a purple brush and began to repeatedly run it over his hair.

“With dreads it was kind of tough, having to tie them up all the time and at night sleeping. Now I feel free. I feel the breeze. My scalp can actually feel the air. I sleep more comfortably at home.”

And straight home to little Clive (8 pounds, 3 ounces and 22 inches at birth) and his fiancée Aneliz — a UM senior who took the semester off to care for the baby — is where Walford goes after each day of classes, football and meetings.

“I can’t even put in words what it’s like being a father,” said Walford, who has five catches for 58 yards and a touchdown in two games.

“It’s special. You see things differently. Things that used to be fun — all the partying and stuff like that — aren’t as fun. I owe it to my son.”

A powerful, 6-4, 260-pounder after putting on 15 pounds of muscle in the offseason, Walford plans to graduate in December with a degree in sports administration. The fourth-year junior was a standout basketball player at Belle Glade Glades Central, and didn’t play football until his senior year of high school.

He misses “being the guy” in basketball, but is intent on putting all his focus on football.

He is fast (4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash), has a knack for big plays and said he loves blocking. In his final four games of 2012, he tallied 303 yards and three touchdowns on 11 catches. Against Duke in the season finale, he had four catches for 99 yards and a score. Just 1 more yard would have made him the first UM tight end since 2003 with two consecutive games of at least 100 receiving yards.

The last one to do that? Kellen Winslow II.

Coach Al Golden said he wants Walford to get the ball more, especially on third down, an area in which UM sorely lacks. “He’s been one of the guys we’ve been pushing to get his timing down, run everything full speed so Stephen [Morris] knows exactly where he is.”

UM offensive coordinator James Coley described Walford as “a big guy who’s fast. If you’re fast, you’ve got to learn how to get open. … Can he get open on that safety? Can he change up his speed and burst and get out of his break? He’s been working really hard at it.”

Walford believes he’s ready to take that next step.

“I still have a long way to go, but I’m more focused than I’ve ever been,” he said. “I have a major responsibility to my family and myself.

“This is my time.”

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