Seven Penn State players received invites to last month’s NFL Combine.
None of them played quarterback.
Sean Clifford started at football’s most important position for one of the college game’s most prominent programs for four seasons and didn’t get the invite.
Due to his up-and-down college career, Clifford became one of the most polarizing players in Penn State’s history.
Some loved him for his toughness and dedication to the program.
Others didn’t feel he cut the mustard and were happy to see him go.
Ergo, some felt he deserved to be invited to the combine, and others laughed at the thought.
One could probably guess which category the man himself falls into.
“I feel like I was snubbed at the combine for sure,” Clifford told reporters at Penn State’s Pro Day Friday in Holuba Hall. “The body of work I’ve had with these teams here. When I didn’t see my name as a combine guy, I felt disrespected for sure. But hey, it’s just more fuel to the fire.”
At Penn State’s Pro Day, Clifford got to do what he didn’t get to do at the combine.
He got to run two 40-yard dashes, with his best time being a respectable 4.57.
He got to throw to receivers he threw to at Penn State (Parker Washington and Mitchell Tinsley) and receivers who came in after Clifford’s last game (Malik McClain).
Overall, Clifford got to do what he loved, and he feels like he’s doing what he loved as well as he’s capable of.
“I feel like I’m truly playing my best ball,” Clifford said. “I think that the Rose Bowl speaks for itself, and I know that I’m playing my best ball. And I know that I’m a pro.”
Ahh, the Rose Bowl.
It was Clifford’s last game and, given his performance and the stakes, arguably his greatest.
He went 16 for 21 with 279 yards and a pair of touchdown passes.
Maybe it wasn’t a “storybook ending”– that would have been a national championship win– but it was spectacular nonetheless for Clifford.
Many people– even those who defended Clifford from harsh critics during his time at Penn State– believe that the Rose Bowl will be Clifford’s last meaningful football game at any level, at least as a starter.
Clifford doesn’t plan on that being the case.
He wants to be an NFL quarterback, and he feels NFL franchises– all 32 of which Clifford performed in front of Friday– should want him.
“I feel like I can really provide a lot of value to a team,” Clifford said. “Whether that’d be being the guy or being a 2 or 3 (string).”
Ever since the Rose Bowl, Clifford’s had a chance to, well, smell the roses.
Without having the next Penn State season to worry about, he’s been able to reflect on the positives and negatives of a college football career that felt like it lasted decades.
There were lows– such as Penn State going 11-11 combined over Clifford’s middle two seasons as the starter–, but Clifford feels the highs– school records in categories such as touchdown passes, yards and completions as well as 32 wins in 46 starts– should help him find a home in the NFL.
“I had a lot of wins with a lot of teams here,” he said. “I’m proud of the body of work that I had here. I feel like, I didn’t really get to look at the statistics until the end, and I feel like the statistics, the things that I was able to do, was enough to put me in a pro-QB room. And now, once I get in there, it’s just proving that I’m that guy. ”
As for Pro Day, Clifford feels it was a fitting end to a long journey at Holuba Hall.
“Just being able to come out here, show the scouts what I’ve got, and being able to really just put on a show,” Clifford said. “It’s been a lot of fun and a good way to cap off a great career at Penn State. So, I’m really thankful for it.”
What has to happen for Clifford to be a success in the NFL?
For him, all he has to have that he doesn’t already have is a chance.
“That’s all I need,” he said. “I just need to be in a camp. I just need to be in a practice with the pros because I know I’m a pro. I can come in and add value to a team. I know that more than anything. I still think I can play in the league 100 percent.”