By VINCE PELUSO
When former Lakeside football and baseball star Frankie Clayman made the decision to go to Mount Vernon Nazarene University to play baseball after his days with the Dragons, it seemed like a perfect fit.
The blazing-fast Clayman had double digits in triples as a senior baseball player at Lakeside and Mount Vernon was known for its strong baseball program.
One thing was missing for Clayman, though — his love and passion for the game of football.
So after injuring his rotator cuff following fall ball and some scrimmages, Clayman decided it was time to return to football, leading to a transfer to Allegheny College.
“It just felt more like my thing,” he said. “I love to lift (weights) and as a baseball player, I couldn’t lift heavy anymore so I missed that. And there’s just nothing like football. Baseball is one of those games you can get back to when you’re older. But, football, once it’s over, it’s over.”
Not to the surprise of anyone who saw him play in high school, the running back made a quick impression on the Gators.
After starting the season as a kick returner, by Week 5 Clayman was Allegheny’s starting running back and had amassed a total of 300 yards through five games.
“I was starting out as a kick and punt returner,” he said. “On Week 5, I got the starting running back role and I was named our offensive player of the week. So I was named the starter for Week 6.”
Then, adversity struck Clayman once again.
Looking to make a cut during practice, he planted his foot and he felt two pops in his knee.
“Right off the bat, I thought it was my ACL, it was my biggest fear,” he said.
Unfortunately, Clayman was right.
The newly named Gators starting running back tore his ACL and MCL, ending his freshman football campaign.
“I have a really good attitude about the whole thing,” he said of the recovery process. “It’s really hard hearing that and thinking that maybe it’s going to take a year to recover. I had a bad attitude at first, I kept asking myself, ‘why me?’ But after some time, I said I was ready to take this on and get better from this.
“I’m going to take this time to work on things, get my upper body real strong. Eventually, I’ll be working my legs out and plan on coming back better than I was. I want to be faster and strong than the day before I got hurt.”
While Clayman has been able to keep a positive outlook about the injury, he did say it was tough to accept at first given the amount of work he had put into getting back on the gridiron.
“That’s part of the reason it hurt so bad, all throughout camp I worked so hard and I was coming in as a freshmen for football (sophomore academically) so I was coming in at the very bottom,” he said. “They already had double digit running backs so I had to work throughout camp and every game just to earn a chance. I earned my spot and to have this injury happen at this time it makes you feel helpless.
“It was though, but I have good attitude about it and I’m psyched to recover. It feels so much better now, I’m gimping around a little bit just walking around my dorm room and I can gimp and put some weight on it. It’s going good.”
Clayman had surgery on Oct. 15, just six days after the injury occurred.
So far, Clayman said all signs point to him being ready to go on opening day of 2014.
“The surgery went really well,” he said. “I just had my first physical therapy session and my trainer thinks I’m ahead of schedule and should be ready for Week 1.”
Despite the injury, Clayman said it felt great to be back on the football field.
“It was great, there’s really nothing that compares to playing football,” he said. “It’s such an adrenaline rush. There’s nothing to compare to it, it’s just the greatest feeling in the world and that’s why I came back to football. It was worth coming back to even with the injury. I’m excited to come back and get that opportunity to play again next year.”
Allegheny originally recruited the 2012 Lakeside graduate out of high school, which was part of the reason why he made the decision to transfer.
The Gators haven’t experienced much success this season, but Clayman said the young roster shows plenty of promise for the future.
“We have got a lot of young talent,” he said. “Our starting quarterback was a freshman as well so we had a starting running back and quarterback who are both freshman. We’ve got good talent, We’re all freshmen, sophomores and juniors so we’ll return everyone except one lineman. I think we’re going to come back pretty strong.”
Clayman said he feels at home at Allegheny.
“Out of high school when coach was recruiting me as a football player, I thought I just wanted to play baseball, so I didn’t look much into it,” he said. “Then I realized I wanted to play football so I contacted him and he said we’d love to have you here. I fell in love with the team and all that. It’s been a good fit, I like it a lot here. The school is a big improvement for me.
“Everything that I didn’t feel right about last year feels right here.”