Undrafted Clement makes Eagles; other undrafted Badgers cut
Corey Clement led the Eagles in Super Bowl LII with 100 receiving yards and a touchdown.Image By: Jessi Schoville
The 2017 NFL offseason was fun, dramatic, exciting, rewarding, somber, unpredictable and emotional for a group of Wisconsin players that were trying to make their dreams of playing in the National Football League come true. Many Badgers had the opportunity to make an NFL squad, but, ultimately, only a few former UW standouts made a 53-man roster and will be on an active roster for the start of the 2017-’18 season. Still, even though many players were cut after an offseason of training with their respective squads, some Wisconsin players’ offseasons ended in pure joy, as their professional careers are just getting started.
Only three Badgers were picked in the 2017 draft. T.J. Watt was drafted 30th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ryan Ramczyk was taken just two picks later by the New Orleans Saints and Vince Biegel stayed in Wisconsin, getting drafted in the fourth round with the 108th pick by the Green Bay Packers. Watt has had a very successful preseason, and, accordingly, was named as a starting outside linebacker over the likes of veteran James Harrison. Ramczyk is currently battling for a starting spot at left tackle, despite the Saints saying that he is struggling to catch up to the speed of NFL rushers. While the other two draftees are looking to play a big role with their teams early in the season, Biegel will have to wait to make an impact, as he was added to the PUP (physically unable to perform) list, and will be unable to play until at least week 6 due to a foot injury that he suffered on the first day of rookie workouts.
The offseason was much more tumultuous for the group of Badgers that did not get drafted and entered the league as free agents. Rob Wheelwright, Bart Houston, Dare Ogunbowale, Sojourn Shelton and Corey Clement all went undrafted, but quickly signed with various teams after the draft. Wheelwright signed with the New York Giants, was cut, then signed with Kansas City, but was cut again by the Chiefs. The Steelers signed Houston, and they also cut him. Ogunbowale was cut by the Houston Texans, but has since made their practice squad. Similarly, Shelton was cut by the Arizona Cardinals, but then made the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad.
While all of the other undrafted Badgers couldn’t make their NFL squads, Clement, on the other hand, will have the opportunity to play for his hometown team–the team that he has been a fan of since he was a little kid. After Clement put up 105 rushing yards on 28 carries (the second leading rusher on the team) in the preseason, the Philadelphia Eagles kept the Glassboro, New Jersey native on its roster, giving him the opportunity to live out his dream in the NFL. After a summer of hard work and tireless nights, Clement finally made the team.
“I’ve been fighting all camp from the bottom trying to work my way to the top,” Clement told the Philadelphia Inquirer in late-August. “If anybody understands the amount of sacrificing I had to do to keep going up the depth chart, it’s a lot.”
Clement had an impactful career at Wisconsin, rushing for 3,092 yards on 576 carries. He also found his way into the end zone 36 times, putting him at ninth all-time for Wisconsin rushing touchdowns.
Still, despite the successful career at UW, Clement knew that he needed to work incredibly hard and change his game in order to make an NFL roster. Accordingly, the 5-foot-10-inch running back worked on running wide receiver routes to become a bigger presence in the passing game, and even slimmed down from 227 pounds at the beginning of training camp, and currently weighs in at 215.
“They’ve got a big back [in LeGarrette Blount]. I think I can feel more comfortable within myself and get more out of my production if I’m lighter,” Clement said. “I feel quicker in and out of cuts, in and out of routes. I want to show Duce [running backs coach Duce Staley] that if he works with me, I can be a great running back.”
Clement has earned a roster spot on the Eagles, but his work isn’t done yet. Clement is still slotted as the number five running back on the team, behind Blount, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood and fellow rookie Donnel Pumphrey.
Still, despite the uphill battle ahead of him, Clement has a lot to feel good about. For now, he is the lone undrafted Badger that made an active roster, and he can sleep well knowing that he is going to suit up on Sundays.
“I deserve to feel good right now,” Clement said. “I laid everything out there, especially these past six weeks. Not even on offense, but also on special teams. I had a great time with everybody. I shocked myself, to be honest with you.”
Although the NFL teams have set their rosters, these former Wisconsin players still have a lot left to write in their stories. Whether starting week one, earning their reps on the practice squad or working to make their ways back onto NFL rosters, Clement and the rest of the Badgers will keep working to make their mark in the NFL, and to make their dreams become reality.Subscribe to The Daily Cardinal Newsletter