His baby boy turned a year old just three days before fall camp began at the University of Miami. And believe it when someone that little can make someone that big want to succeed more than he ever has in football.
“On the field, if I’m too tired and I’m giving my all, and it’s just like that last rep and I’m like, ‘God, man!’ I think about my son and I think about how his life would be if I don’t go hard,’’ said projected starting tight end Clive Walford. “It just pushes me over the top.’’
Walford, 6-4 and 263 pounds, knows that returning for his senior season could be the difference in what transpires at the 2015 NFL Draft, which, in turn, could make a difference in Clive III’s future.
The former Belle Glade Glades Central High standout basketball player, who didn’t play football until his senior year, said he’s not only competing against his own teammates under the scorching sun at Greentree Field, he’s competing against every tight end in college football.
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“My grind is totally different,’’ Walford said. “I’m focusing on grinding and competing against tight ends all across the nation, not just the ones here on my team. I’m competing against the top tight ends — [Devin] Funchess from Michigan, [Nick] O’Leary from Florida State, I forgot the kid’s name from South Carolina [senior Rory Anderson], but I’m competing against all those guys.
“I’m trying to put in more work. We all have the same goals. We’re all trying to get to the NFL. I know if I do 10 reps, they could be doing 12 reps. So I have to push myself to do 13 reps.’’
Walford started 12 of 13 games last season, finishing with 34 catches for 454 yards and two touchdowns. His streak of 27 consecutive games with at least one reception included an impressive one-handed grab in stride against Wake Forest that earned him an ESPN Top-10 nomination. It was the 23rd time in 25 catches that he had either picked up a first down or scored a touchdown.
Returning to UM was a “smart decision,’’ Walford said, that he relayed to reporters minutes after the Hurricanes lost to Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
“I’m going harder than I ever went,’’ he said Sunday. “I focus on the little things that can be small in the game but also change the game at the same time hand placement, technique, focusing on things when you’re tired [in the] fourth quarter, better conditioning.”
UM coach Al Golden said Walford is “more animated in his routes’’ and finishing them. “He’s more detail-oriented,’’ the coach agreed. “He’s paying attention to the little things now and that comes with maturity.’’
Added offensive coordinator James Coley about Walford on Monday after the second two-a-day practice session: “I’m very impressed with him. The last couple of days have been exceptional.’’
Walford, donning the orange jersey Monday given to those who perform best daily in practice, is joined in the tight end battle by veteran Beau Sandland, a 6-6, 255 fellow senior who wore orange Monday morning but relinquished it to 6-4, 260-pound sophomore Standish Dobard by the afternoon.
Redshirt sophomore tight end Jake O’Donnell, listed as 6-7 and 255 pounds, also is competing along with 6-4, 225-pound Chris Herndon of Norcross, Ga., and converted former quarterback Gray Crow, a 6-3, 224-pound redshirt sophomore.
“There’s always competition,’’ said Walford, who noted he has reduced his body fat from 19 to 15.2 percent. “The younger guys want to hit the field, and as an older guy you can’t lose your spot to a younger guy. So you have to push yourself as hard as they’re pushing themselves.
“It’s my last one,’’ he said of this season. “I’m trying to make it the best one.’’