Former Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn will play in his second playoff game in seven seasons when the Atlanta Falcons visit the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Wild Card Round on Saturday night.
He’s coming off one of the best regular seasons of his career. In 16 games, he made 21 combined tackles, forced 2 fumbles, recovered 2 more and had 9.5 sacks. Six of those sacks came against the Dallas Cowboys in November, a Falcons program record.
Clayborn thought none of this would be possible after suffering a torn bicep in last year’s playoffs. He contemplated retirement.
But the mentality he developed at Iowa helped him overcome those negative thoughts.
He said as much in his piece for The Players Tribune this week:
I gotta give a shout-out to everybody back at the University of Iowa right here. When I was back in college in Iowa City, the coaches and the staff really taught me about hard work and discipline. I know it’s cliché, but the things I learned there have always helped me keep my head down and keep working hard to push through injuries. That’s what the Iowa program is all about: hard work.
And I thought a lot about all that once that brace came off my arm. Because of that Iowa mentality — along with a lot of prayer and talks with my wife, Shannon, and just reflecting — I decided that it wasn’t time for me to hang it up just yet. I had to try to come back.
— The Players' Tribune (@PlayersTribune) January 5, 2018
In five “amazing years” at Iowa, Clayborn grew into one of the nation’s best defensive players. He earned Orange Bowl as a junior, then built on that effort with a dominant senior season in 2010. His efforts were rewarded to the tune of consensus All-America honors and a first-round pick (No. 20 overall) to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Since then, Clayborn since has made 30 sacks in almost 7 full seasons. And with that Hawkeyes mentality, it doesn’t appear he’ll be slowing down any time soon.