Tyler Grace Standout Kade Clayton Takes Mid-Season Position Switch In Stride
Tyler Grace head football coach Mike Maddox has seen this story play out before: a star football player is forced to change positions for the greater good.
Maddox and the Cougars are hoping this year's version has a similar ending.
Back in 2004 as an assistant at Gilmer High School, Maddox had a front-row seat to the Manuel Johnson-led state championship season. Johnson, an all-state receiver as a junior who had committed to Oklahoma, was asked to play quarterback as a senior to fill a void left by graduation.
All Johnson did was set numerous school passing records, leading the Buckeyes to a 16-0 season and the Class 3A Division II state title.
Fast forward and eight years, and Maddox has watched with satisfaction his junior standout Kade Clayton make the switch from receiver to running back. But unlike Johnson, Clayton's move was brought on by injury.
In the Cougars' loss to Dallas Christian on Sept. 28, Clayton rolled over on his wrist, causing a severe contusion -- so severe that Clayton couldn't rotate it, which made it difficult to haul in receptions.
Clayton became a running back again after spending all of his sophomore season in the backfield. And since taking handoffs almost exclusively, he has put up some impressive numbers.
In his last four games, Clayton has rushed for 713 yards and 14 touchdowns, averaging 15.5 yards per carry in the process. He went for 325 yards and five TDs in his first game at running back on Oct. 5.
“It was pretty easy," Clayton said of getting reacquainted with the running back position. "I played it all last year, so I already knew what to do. It was more of a transition to receiver because I had to get in shape to play receiver."
Added Maddox: “He’s able to switch positions and he’s able to maximize his efforts and abilities. He’s a good athlete, so he’s able to adapt really well.”
For the season, Clayton has rushed for 1,047 yards and 18 touchdowns and has 22 catches for 467 yards and six TDs. He's become the focal point of a Grace offense that's averaging more than 48 points per game.
“The teams will scheme to stop him, which can open the door for our other skill position kids," Maddox said. "Anytime you’ve got a young man like that, you realize teams are doing something extra special to defend him. It helps out the other ones, knowing they’ll be open at decision-making time.”
Not only has Clayton been drawing the attention of opposing defenses. Several big-time college programs have shown interest. SMU, Oklahoma, Texas State, TCU and Texas Tech have all seen Clayton in person, either at practice or at games.
Clayton is quick to give credit to others for all of his success.
“Hard work and determination is the main thing, staying with it every day and not giving up," he said. "My coaches help a lot and my parents are good motivators for me. My teammates, they’re with me through it all, too.”
Clayton and his Cougars (7-1, 4-1 in TAPPS D-II District 2) teammates play at area rival Bullard Brook Hill (5-3, 3-2) on Friday in a battle for playoff positioning.