It hasn’t been an easy road for Jaguars new rookie cornerback and return specialist Chris Claybrooks.
As he ventured through the trials of having a new-born son during his sophomore year of high school and getting through junior college on his way to Memphis, there was plenty of adversity and blocks put in his way to achieving his dream.
On Saturday, the Jaguars turned that dream into a reality by selecting the talented, and fast, special teams weapon with their final of a total 12 selections throughout the weekend. Pick number 223rd overall could be something special that he holds on to for the rest of his life.
Posted on Instagram first, and then throughout all of the various social media platforms, Claybrooks could be seen celebrating by first screaming and shouting throughout his household, turning to his friends and family — he did it.
After running through the neighborhood for a little to scream “Jacksonville Jaguars!” to anyone who may be in earshot, he settled down, ready to great the local Jacksonville media for the first time, answering any and all questions about how his journey came to a head this weekend.
“I did not have as a hands on experience as others have had,” Claybrooks began when asked about the impact the trials that he has faced as impacted his journey. “I had to work for mine. I went to JUCO. I had a son my sophomore year [of high school]. It has been hard for me. My mother got sick with lupus. I have just been grinding. At the time, I wanted to come for a year and she told me to follow my dreams.”
Claybrooks attended Fort Scott Community College (2016) and then Coahoma Community College (2017) to begin his collegiate football career, and once he was able, moved up into division-I football for his final two years at Memphis University.
Beginning as a wide receiver/running back throughout high school and moving through to junior college, Claybrooks would do anything to live out his dream, and feed his child who, at the time was only a toddler, just becoming a kid. To now to have to deal with all of that, he didn’t let up, and gave it his all as a walk-on.
“I was just going hard every time. They were like, ‘Dang, why do you keep going hard?’ I was like, ‘Because I’m a walk-on and I have to eat.’ I have a family to feed,” Claybrooks explained. “I kept on working. They put me on scholarship and I just had that mindset … It was a dream come true. I got drafted, and it feels amazing. Hard work pays off.”
Entering his final season at Memphis, Claybrooks suffered an injury to his foot which would cause him to miss the first five games of his redshirt senior season — another hurdle to get over. After consulting with his son — along with others in his circle —, he opted not to play on the foot injury, deciding on surgery. “He was telling me, ‘It’s going to be OK daddy, just take the surgery and come back 100 percent.’”
See, Claybrooks wasn’t a typical college football student-athlete, not only was he entering uncharted territories as far as the level of competition, but he also underwent a position change upon entering college, switching to cornerback, something he’d never played before. But with his speed (4.25 40-yard dash ran on his own on April 11th), and his overall hard working demeanor, he made it work.
“[Former Memphis head coach Mike Norvell] told me, ‘You are going to hate me right now, but you are going to thank me later on.’ Shout out to them for making that move on me. It has been awesome,” Claybrooks told the local Jacksonville media.
The move did work, and he excelled, however it was his job on special teams that ultimately got him selected by the Jaguars. After taking over for now-Dallas Cowboys running back and former Memphis return man, Tony Pollard, Claybrooks got his opportunity. Last season, the seventh-round selection totaled 11 returns for 338 yards and a 95-yard touchdown, his impact was felt immediately.
These never get old for Memphis. Chris Claybrooks ladies and gentlemen. Do me a favor: watch this and enjoy. Then watch it again and focus on Chris’ legs. So fast that he is a blur. Meep-meep! pic.twitter.com/DPEABKaOLk— Geoff Mack (@GeoffMack7777) November 30, 2019
Claybrooks had been returning kicks his entire life, and now has the opportunity to take his talents to the highest level with the Jaguars.
“I am going to turn it loose with the Jaguars – my speed, my motor, never giving up – and I’m a playmaker. Whatever they need me to be, I can do it and I will make plays and make an impact.”
Hard work pays off.