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FHS alum is NFL’s ‘Rocky Mountain Ty’


Climbing the hills of Western North Carolina, so to speak, as a first-team All-ACC lineman at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, Tyson Clabo is looking to scale the big mountain out west and become “Rocky Mountain Ty.”

Clabo, a former Farragut High School offensive lineman (Class of 2000), wasn’t chosen during the eight rounds of April’s NFL Draft but signed a $230,000 NFL minimum salary contract with the Denver Broncos of the American Football Conference — AFC West division — in late April.


DRAFT TO MINI CAMP

“They (Denver) called, I think it was around the fifth-round, and they told me that they were interested in signing me and they were going to try and draft me,” said Clabo, a 6-foot-7, 345 pound 21-year-old who is currently listed as third-team tackle on the Broncos’ roster following summer mini camp.

“I expected to get drafted, I don’t understand how all that worked out, but it just didn’t work out for me that way. But I think I’m in a good place, and hopefully I can make the team and keep playing ball.”

THE CHALLENGE

“In mini-camp, it was just a lot of learning for myself and the other rookies,” Clabo said. “We didn’t get to compete that much, we did compete a little bit against the other, younger players. I expect that I’ll get a lot more opportunity to compete against the older veterans and those guys when camp comes around (starting July 27).”

As for major differences between college and professional football he’s already experienced, “the precision of practice is a lot higher than it is in college,” Clabo said. “We go out there in helmets, we don’t have any pads on, but it’s full speed and you have to be very precise in the way you conduct yourself ... you really have to concentrate on using your hands a lot more, and just being a professional, learning how to practice like they practice. It took a couple of days to get used to that. And everybody’s a little faster.

“I look around at all the guys, and there’s a couple of guys you just look at that are just phenomenal athletes, but the other guys I don’t think there’s much difference in the level of play,” Clabo added. “We have a lot of veterans on the team, and I think they just know more than we young guys do ... in a few years we could all be just as good.

“I’m counting on it.”

As for size and speed at the pro level, “Our d-linemen (defensive linemen) can run just as fast as some of our linebackers we had at school,” Clabo said. “They’re all just great athletes, and to be out there with those guys is a challenge every day.”

NFL CUTS

Each NFL team has staggered roster cuts throughout August leading up to the opening game of the regular season.

“I know that we have about eighty players on the team, and they’ve got to get it down to a fifty-three man roster,” Clabo said. “I’ve talked to some guys who have played (pro football) before, and they said you really don’t know until those final cuts come out.”

NOT PLAYING HIGH

“I think it’s just a matter of taking my game to the next level,” Clabo said about his keys to success. “In college I could get away with playing high occasionally (bad leverage) … but here you can’t do that, if you play high you’re going to get picked up and carried back five yards in the backfield. If you make a bad step the guy’s going to run around you. It’s just a matter of fine-tuning everything I’ve learned to date.”

CONFIDENCE ALL ALONG

“I knew that I was big, and that I had decent feet,” Clabo said of the traits he knew he possessed dating back to FHS. “It is an accomplishment in itself that I’m here and that I’m on a roster at this point, but by no means am I satisfied.

“Being the third-string tackle, I’ve got an eight-year veteran and an eleven-year veteran that are in front of me,” Clabo added. “They’ve done it; I was in high school when those guys were in the NFL. It’s not intimidating, it’s just kind of weird.”

POST WFU PREPARATION

Taking part in the huge pre-NFL Draft combine in Indianapolis — where college players gather to exhibit basic athletic and football skills for NFL scouts — “I was right there in the pack with everybody else,” Clabo said in evaluating a combine performance he said was neither spectacular nor a flop.

As for size and strength, “I can probably bench four-hundred (pounds),” Clabo said, adding that he ran a 5.27 in his most recent 40-yard dash.

As for interest from other NFL teams, “I had a few other offers, but this was the best one,” Clabo said. “Our offense is very similar to what we did when I was in college, the way we run the football with the zone blocking and the commitment to running the football. I felt like this is where I had the best shot of making a team.”

Selected to play in the East-West Shrine Game (All-star game), Clabo said, “in the game I did great. We (East) were behind the whole game, so we passed and it was all pass protection in the game. I protected well.”

However, NFL scouts put equal emphasis — if not more — on player performances during the All-star practices leading up to the game. Here is where Clabo said he slipped.

“I didn’t do well at the beginning of the week in one-on-one (drills),” he said. “They put me at guard, and I had expected to play tackle, and I hadn’t really done any one-on-ones at guard all year and so I had a trouble there. I tried not to worry about it because I got in the game and did well. The game is all that matters to me, but practice is a big deal and I didn’t have a great one.”

Did this hurt your draft status? “It could have, it’s possible,” Clabo said. “Who knows?”

SENIOR SHIFTS, SUCCESS

Despite earning first-team All-ACC honors from the Associated Press, Clabo had a challenging senior season for the 5-7 Demon Deacons.

“As far as my personal performance goes, I think I had a difficult time at times because I played all four positions on the O-line (offensive line) excluding center,” Clabo said. “My senior year, there were games when I actually played all four (positions) during the game. That was really difficult. It was hard to get into a rhythm, because throughout a game you begin to get a feel for your opponent and the d-linemen you’re going up against. And it was just difficult because I was moving around all the time and never really going against the same guy.”

But through it all, “I thought that I had a good season.”

A quote from a WFU story from TheInsiders.com and found on the Broncos’ Update Web site page said that Clabo, “was an emotional force on offense and one of the team’s most quotable players. He helped get players to believe that Wake Forest could compete with anyone.”

DETERMINATION

“I’m determined to make it in this league,” said Clabo, who adds that working out in the humidity of East Tennessee is worse than the thin air and altitude of Denver. “It’s going to happen for me, I’m pretty confident. My determination’s going to get me there. I’m looking forward to competing in camp every day and making the team.”

 

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