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NCAA Cross Country Champions
By: Associated Press
Toney Clemons focuses on one of this three receptions in Saturday's 31-13 win against Hawaii.
Brooks: 'T-Clem' Makes His Point(s) In Buffs' Comeback
Release: September 20, 2010
By: B.G. Brooks, Contributing Editor
BOULDER - The wait was long for Toney Clemons. The weight was getting even harder to bear.

Since transferring from Michigan to Colorado two years ago and sitting out the 2009 football season, Clemons had prided himself on training hard, practicing hard and staying prepared.

A couple of mottos constantly resonate in his life, one being, "There is no such thing as luck, because luck is not needed when you are prepared and are hard-working."

And there's this one from the late John Wooden: "Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful."

"T-Clem" remained prepared and careful, but his patience was being tested. Throughout last fall's weekly scout team work and during spring drills, his coaches emphasized and reemphasized that his time was coming, a payday awaited.

In April, Clemons recalled, coach Dan Hawkins told him to stay loose, play loose, enjoy yourself and don't chase the game - "let it come to me. That's probably the best advice he's given me. He said my best performances would be when that happened."

OK, but when?

Projected in August as one of CU's freshly minted go-to receivers, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Clemons, now a junior, caught three balls for 25 yards in the Buffaloes' season-opening win (24-3) against Colorado State and another three for 36 yards in the Bust at Berkeley (52-7, Cal).

As for the kind of afternoon others had envisioned for Clemons and he had envisioned for himself . . . well, it was still somewhere out there. As for ever achieving it and reaching the end zone, Clemons conceded concern, even a smattering of self-doubt, was beginning to seep in.

"I really was starting to doubt myself as a player . . . I thought I might never score a touchdown," Clemons said the day after he finally did.

A bit of background here is in order: In two seasons at Michigan, Clemons caught a dozen passes for 106 yards - but no TDs. His most recent trip to the end zone came as a high school senior (New Kensington, Pa.) in the fall of 2006.

That's a lengthy dry spell, and even after Clemons finally scored on a 73-yard pass/run Saturday in CU's 31-13 win against Hawaii he had to rub his eyes and hit the rewind button a couple of times while reviewing the game tape.

"It hadn't sunk in yet," he said. "I watched the tape and truly thought it wasn't me out there. I had trouble believing what I was watching. But now I really feel like a personal weight was lifted. I always keep telling myself that every time I get an opportunity I've got to maximize it. This is a big, big weight off of my back."

The long pitch-and-catch from quarterback Tyler Hansen to Clemons was CU's longest play of the five-year Hawkins era and it provided the bulk of Clemons' 85-yard receiving total (three catches).

Clemons is into visualization, and on Wednesday he told Hansen, "It's our week. I had a visual of making big plays and being instrumental in us doing something good."

If he couldn't foresee the specifics, he could continue to work on how it might happen. On the long TD play, he saw Hansen scrambling out of the pocket toward the sideline. Said Clemons: "He's great when he's on the move, great when he's playing free . . . and we do a lot of scramble drills."

Clemons merely did as he had been coached: He adjusted his route and made himself available for Hansen, who later said, "Scotty (McKnight) was about in the same place, but I had Clemons behind him so I chose him to throw the ball to."

Wise choice, noted Clemons: "He directed me and put the ball where it needed to be. He made a great play."

The score increased the Buffs' second-half lead to a more comfortable 24-13 and was the first of Hansen's pair of TD passes (the second came on a ricochet off of Clemons' shoulder pads to a grateful McKnight). It accounted for the last of CU's points in a 31-point second half that Clemons had more than a small part in inspiring.

At halftime, with the Buffs trailing 10-0, Clemons had something (a lot, actually) to say about the offense continuing to stumble over itself.

"I kind of took on the role of a vocal guy," he said. "A lot of guys don't want to do that . . . me, I like being in that spotlight. If I put my word on something, it's my bond. I've got to speak to guys; they look to me for a spark, for some charisma. If my energy is not in it, it trickles down to them. A lot of times I wear my emotion on sleeve, but I'm willing to do that.

 "I told them if they don't have the goose bumps, if they aren't ready to represent our team, our university and Alfred Williams (Saturday was the former CU All-American's 'day' at Folsom Field), then don't go back out there for the second half. I'm just happy that guys got the message, responded and we came back out and played with that kind of character and heart."

Clemons' halftime address wasn't the weekend's only display of emotion. Clemons said he didn't see Hawkins head butt a helmeted player, but noted, "We need that from him. Teams take on the personality of their coach, and he's a passionate guy. It was the right time for him to let the emotion go, the right time to do it. He loves us and enjoys being around us. You've got to play hard for a guy like that."

The Buffs have a bye week before hosting Georgia on Oct. 2. It promises to be another inspirational Saturday as CU's 1990 national championship team will be honored with a 20th anniversary weekend celebration. Many of that team's players, as well as former coach Bill McCartney and his former assistants, have been invited to participate.

CU will use the week off, said Clemons, to its advantage by "getting guys healed, getting in the playbook . . . it comes at a great time. We've got some confidence rolling and have two weeks to prepare. We need that for a team like Georgia. We showed a lot of progress as a unit (offense) last week. We did a lot of things that a lot doubters didn't think we could do."

The Buffs' offensive performance in the second half against Hawaii "is a standard that we should be held to," he said. "We put a half together, now we've got to put a whole game together. We can't win games by giving the ball back (on turnovers). Penalties will kill you, too, but attitude will kill you just as fast.

"Saturday, we showed what we can be, we played to what we and others expect we should be. We've advertised ourselves as having lot of talent, now we have to play as advertised."

Contact: BG.Brooks@Colorado.EDU

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