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Clay's Day All About The Big Play

Posted Oct 4, 2011

Sunday’s game at San Diego will go down as the one where Charles Clay caught his first NFL pass. But he was so wrapped in the game, he didn’t ask to keep the ball as a memento.

“I was so zoned out, I wasn’t thinking about it,” Clay said Tuesday after the Dolphins returned to practice. “It’s all right. It’s probably long gone now. They probably don’t know which one it is. I’m not going to worry about it.”

Besides, Clay is hoping there will be many more catches in his future with the Dolphins.

He’s also hoping they will be more like his second catch that day. After gaining 3 yards on the Dolphins’ first offensive play, Clay added a 31-yard catch later in the first quarter.

It was the kind of play the Dolphins had in mind when they drafted Clay out of the University of Tulsa in the sixth round of the 2011 draft.

Clay’s big gain came on the first play after Matt Moore came in at quarterback for the injured Chad Henne and it moved the ball to the San Diego 20-yard line. Five plays later, Lex Hilliard scored to the give the Dolphins a 7-0 lead.

“It was good to see him run with the football because that’s why we brought him here,” said Head Coach Tony Sparano. “It was good to get him involved that way. He did a good job of running in the middle of the field.”

It was a breakout game of sorts for Clay, who battled a hamstring injury in the preseason and had to sit out the first two regular season games — the Monday night opener against New England and the Week 2 home game against Houston.

“It was real tough, especially missing that first game, the Monday night game,” Clay said. “But everything happens for a reason. I feel like that might have made me stronger. It gave me a chance to sit back and watch and learn from (Anthony) Fasano and Jeron Mastrud and those guys. I feel it worked out for the better, but at the same time you never want something like that to happen.”

Clay was in the starting lineup for the game at Cleveland but didn’t make a catch.

Still, making his NFL debut was nonetheless quite an experience for Clay.

“It was surreal,” he said. “You just kind of look around. Last year I was playing on Saturday and watching these games, just hoping for a chance to get out here and play one day, and for it to finally be here it feels good.

“But at the same time, I’m not satisfied with just being here. I want to be here in the long run, not just right now. I’m going to try to do all I can to help this team and start getting these wins.”

Perhaps the most versatile prospect in the 2011 draft, Clay was used at Tulsa at — get ready for this — tailback, fullback, tight end, split receiver, Wildcat quarterback, linebacker and defensive end.

With the Dolphins, he’s been seeing action at both fullback and tight end.

To learn the ins and outs of the tight end position, Clay has been leaning on Fasano, who’s only too happy to help since he got the same kind of guidance from Jason Witten when he was in Dallas.

“He’s kind of one of those modern-type tight ends,” Fasano said. “He’s able to do a lot of things. He’s called upon to be kind of a move-around tight end but also take on some fullback responsibilities and some tight end responsibilities. He’s got a lot on his plate. He’s doing a hell of a job as a rookie mentally.”

Despite playing so many positions, it was tight ends who Clay looked up to before he got to the NFL, and he mentions names like Aaron Hernandez, Jermichael Finley and Chris Cooley.

“Whoever was making plays,” Clay added, “that’s who I liked to watch.”

Clay certainly has the ability to make plays himself, as he showed against San Diego. His speed, Sparano says, makes him a “matchup problem.”

But Clay is hoping that the 31-yard play against the Chargers was just the beginning and that someday others will be looking up to him.

“My long-term goal is to set a different name,” he says. “One day I want people to say, ‘Oh, he’ll be the next Charles Clay.’ That’s my goal. I look at guys like Jermichael Finley and I like what he does as a player, but ultimately you want to be able to have people say, ‘He’s the next Charles Clay,’ or something like that.”
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