Agent Katz: You have to go out and perform

Then you haven’t been paying attention.

The story has been oft-told but deserves repeating. Early rumors had him going to St. Anselm’s, then taking a scholarship (a partial one at that!) to UNH. But he bet on himself and decided to prep a year. Most kids when they prep a year just set the old man back another $20,000, but this son of a jeweler was the ultimate diamond in the rough.

The year (actually he was only at Bridgton Academy a semester) netted him several Division 1-A scholarship offers and he cast his lot with Michigan State. Things went so well there, he earned second-team all-conference honors last fall.

The two-time Academic All-Big 10 honoree could have taken his diploma and gotten a real job.

But he isn’t prepared to walk away without giving football another shot. Getting drafted may be a bit of a longshot, but he feels he’ll be in somebody’s camp this summer.

“I feel I definitely can do it (make a team). I could go in the sixth or seventh round if I’m real lucky,” said Clifford, “but I’m confident I’ll be at least a free agent.”

If need be, he’ll play in the Arena League first.

As he expected, Michigan State’s Pro Day was a mixed bag.

He benchpressed 225 pounds 20 times and ran a 5.56 40-yard dash, both of which could use some work, but had more success in the broad jump 8-feet-5), short shuttle run (4.65) and three-cone drill (7.62).

Needless to say, Pro Day was an important day for him.

“I took it like it was game day,” said Clifford, whose agent is Richard Katz of KMG Sports. “You have to go out and perform. You only get one shot.”

While not a workout warrior, Clifford’s game tapes are sure to attract some interest.

“I went out every week in the Big 10 vs. guys who are going to be in the NFL or already are,” he noted.

And the co-captain usually more than held his own as the Spartans made a bowl game (losing to Boston College 24-21 in the Champs Sports Bowl) and led the Big 10 in total offense and scoring.

One of the reasons for the two-year starter’s breakout season last fall? No doubt, he says, it was his mother, Susan, taking a leave of absence from her nursing job and joining him for his senior year in East Lansing.

At MSU last fall, he took graduate courses. For five weeks this winter at Sports and Field Athletic Club in Tampa, he furthered his gridiron education under the tutelage of former 14-year NFL offensive lineman John Jackson and current New Orleans Saints lineman Zach Strief.

“I lost 10-12 pounds, got quicker and worked on my technique,” said the 6-7, 312-pound Clifford, who’ll turn 24 on April 3.

The past couple of years have been a rollercoaster ride of emotions. There has been the on-field success contrasted with the horror of his brother, Marine Sgt. John Clifford, getting injured in Iraq when his Humvee hit a mine on Sept. 11, 2006.

“He’s doing real well,” said Pete. “He broke his leg and tore his knee up. He doesn’t like to talk about it too much.

“My mom (at first) didn’t explain it. (I said) ‘Hurt in Iraq, what do you mean?!’ That was tough on me mentally.”

John, like his brother, is as tough as they come. The Purple Heart recipient, who pulled the injured driver from the Humvee, has made an impressive recovery from his leg and facial wounds. He’s putting his finance degree from Bentley to good use at Raytheon.

Pete, too, someday wants to put his criminal justice degree to good use, pursuing a career with the state department or FBI.

Something tells me, though, that won’t be for a few years.