Not long ago, running back Corey Clement had what many felt was a realistic goal of taking the same path predecessor Melvin Gordon did — leave the University of Wisconsin football team a year early to become a high pick in the NFL draft.
A disastrous 2015 season dominated by a nagging sports hernia injury and an off-field fight crushed those hopes, only to see him bounce back with 1,375 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior last year.
Clement’s expectations for his place in this April’s draft had cooled considerably, but he certainly wasn’t prepared for what transpired during the event’s three days in Philadelphia.
There were 253 players drafted over seven rounds, and Clement was not one of them.
Biegel's deal was done Wednesday, putting eight of the team's 10 draftees under contract.
“I couldn’t control it,” Clement said. “I stopped watching it after a while and just let it be.”
A flurry of calls came Clement’s way following the draft. He quickly signed as an free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles, who play near his hometown of Glassboro, New Jersey, and hopes to make the NFL’s other 31 teams regret passing on him.
Clement was a first-team All-Big Ten Conference selection in 2016, played in the Senior Bowl and was invited to the NFL combine, where he ran a disappointing 4.68-second 40-yard dash. His 4.54 a couple weeks later at UW’s Pro Day was respectable, though, and he also caught the ball well that day in front of scouts from all 32 teams after not taking many third-down reps for the Badgers.
Clement said that heading into the draft he was hearing he could be selected as high as the third round. As the final day of the draft — Rounds 4-7 — unfolded, he was expecting to be taken earlier in the day.
“I don’t have any explanation,” Clement said. “If somebody could tell me, I would love to hear it. Everybody talks, and clearly a word didn’t get back to me as to why I didn’t get drafted.
“For me, I was just a bit confused. Everybody thought I was frustrated. I was just confused at the whole thing of how I didn’t get selected. … Whatever the reason may be, it’s behind me now. Now, I’m where I want to be.”
Houston signed with the Steelers, while Ogunbowale signed with the Houston Texans after a three-day rookie minicamp over the weekend.
Landing in Philadelphia was a dream scenario for Clement. He rooted for the Eagles while growing up on the other side of the Pennsylvania-New Jersey border and remembers watching Duce Staley, now the organization’s running backs coach, star for the team from 1997 to 2003.
“Staley is definitely a positive influence and a great coach as to how to handle things both on and off the field,” Clement said. “He’s a good coach and a good person outside the stadium. … Even though I’m undrafted, I’m still going to have a chip on my shoulder. I’m just going to go out there every day bright, confident, ready to work. If I do mess up during practice, make it full speed. You’ve got to have the mindset that there is another down to correct yourself.”
He may not have a wide margin for error when it comes to making the 53-man roster, though. Veteran Darren Sproles returns at the position, and Philadelphia signed former Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount in May. The Eagles also traded up to draft San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey — the NCAA Division I FBS leader in career rushing yards — in the fourth round this year and took Wendell Smallwood in the fifth round of the 2016 draft.
But Clement believes he should have been drafted, too, perhaps even higher than Pumphrey, and he has a full offseason to convince the coaching staff to share that belief.
It’ll be an uphill path for Clement to make a major impact in the NFL, but he’s certainly motivated to show he has the talent required to do so.
“(I want to prove) that I should have been selected, and selected as a high draft choice,” Clement said. “I knew I should have been, and nobody else has to tell me because at this point, everybody has their own opinion. They’re entitled to it. But I know where I should have been picked up. I just want to shock the world now, basically. Go out there with a vicious mentality. Finish every run hard-nosed and make (other teams) second-guess and scratch their head as to why we didn’t pick this guy.”