|Photo Courtesy of Star Tribune|
Vikings rookie T.J. Clemmings is focusing on the technique and fundamentals of football as he pursues his NFL dream.
Updated: August 1st, 2015 7:34am
By: Daniel House
T.J. Clemmings played football at a small catholic school, but it didn't take long for him to become a household name among the 146,199 people in his city. Not just on the football field, but on the hardwood of the basketball court. In fact, Clemmings had the chance to play basketball in the Big East conference. The high school star only played football for two seasons at Paterson Catholic School in New Jersey. However, it didn't take long for him to become one of the top prospects in the state. According to Rivals.com, by the time he was a senior, he was a four-star recruit at defensive end and was ranked as the number two prospect in New Jersey. What made him choose football? Clemmings says he was influenced by many people to choose the sport as his future path.
"A lot of people influenced me. A couple of my basketball coaches and my mentor," Clemmings explained.
The aspect of high school football he liked the most was the friends he played with on the gridiron. Each one of them did everything they could to win the game. That philosophy has stuck with Clemmings throughout his football journey.
"We had a whole group of guys that loved playing football. We made sure we won every game," laughed Clemmings.
At that point in his life, he didn't entirely know that he would be switching positions by the time he finished his career at Pittsburgh. Clemmings played defensive end for his first three seasons in college, but following a redshirt, he made the transition to offensive tackle for his final two years. That change alone required a major learning curve as he transitioned to perfecting technique as an offensive tackle. As he became more comfortable at the position, he elevated his draft status to becoming a potential first round pick. However, a foot injury caused him to slide all the way to the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. It took until pick 110 for a team to take a chance on him. The Minnesota Vikings were the organization that did and he thinks this team is an excellent fit for his skills.
"It's a blessing. It's a great, great, opportunity. I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity to come out here and play football," Clemmings said.
Early in training camp, technique has been a major emphasis for every position player. Clemmings echoed this sentiment and is focusing on developing the fundamental aspects of the game. He knows that will be what it takes to earn a starting role at the next level.
"I'm trying to get down the technique that the coaches want me to have and be able to do to get the best results. I've been honing in on technique and playing responsibilities," stated Clemmings.
Clemmings has also noticed the depth of the playbook and terminology of Norv Turner's offensive system. At Pittsburgh, they ran similar alignments and formations, but the focus on being a student of the game is the most significant difference in the NFL.
"We have some similar plays. I would just say there is more terminology here and technique is big. Technique was definitely big at Pittsburgh, but techniques are slightly different in the NFL," Clemmings emphasized.
Clemmings is most excited to play in a system that is predicated on being smart and physical.
"It's hard-nosed football. It's smack somebody in the mouth get somebody moving. You have to be smart while playing good football."
As training camp practices have progressed, Clemmings continues to see snaps at right tackle. In OTA's, he was working at right guard, but head coach Mike Zimmer said he'll be working exclusively at tackle in the early portions of training camp. He is still transitioning to the pace of the game and is still actively working on his technique. However, he has all of the tools to be a future starter at the next level.
He knows it won't be easy, but Clemmings is ready to conquer another challenge as he chases his NFL dream.