Wisconsin fans can’t lose Super Bowl 52 with Corey Clement in one backfield and James White in the other
Typical Hollywood, ya know? Going out there stealing Dare Ogunbowale’s act on the NFL’s biggest stage.
“He always had good hands,” Ogunbowale, the former Wisconsin tailback, said of Corey Clement, his old Badgers backfield mate and now a rookie sensation with the Super Bowl-bound Philadelphia Eagles.
“We would always make fun of him because in practice, he always would be trying to do one-handed catches and stuff. He always had good hands. And his route-running improved, looking at the way he runs routes now.”
At Camp Randall, Hollywood — that’s what Clement’s former Wisconsin teammates used to call the convivial New Jersey native — was the hammer between the tackles; Dare was the screen stud, the swing-pass man, the hands man. Ogunbowale, who put the wraps on his rookie season with the Washington Redskins last month, caught 60 passes over the 2015 and 2016 seasons while sharing tailback time in Madison with Clement. Hollywood caught just 14 balls over that same stretch.
Clement accounted for more than a third of that reception tally in one game on Jan. 13, with 5 catches that helped the Eagles hold off Atlanta 15-10 in a nervy NFC divisional-round victory. It was the fourth-most catch total for a Philly rookie in a playoff game, and made Hollywood the first undrafted rookie running back in NFL history to snare 5 catches in a postseason tilt.
“That’s what I was doing a lot of in college, the whole route-running and pass-catching in college,” Ogunbowale told Land of 10 recently. “I’m really proud of how he’s championing that role and how he’s excelling. He’s doing a great job catching the ball out of the backfield and on screens. And even when he gets the chance to run the ball, you can see he still runs it with anger and he runs powerfully.”
To wit: In the nine contests this season in which Clement has touched the ball at least six times on a catch or a carry, including the playoffs, the Eagles are 8-1.
— Bill Nelson (@nelsonMKE) January 23, 2018
Shot 1 – #Eagles were extremely successful against the best 3rd down defense in the NFL, and beating the blitz was a big part of that. Watch the job in protection here by Jason Kelce and Corey Clement to help keep Nick Foles clean on completion to Zach Ertz to move the sticks pic.twitter.com/hwlGnqMs3N
— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) January 22, 2018
“Corey definitely learned stuff from James,” Ogunbowale said of James White, another former Wisconsin teammate, and another one who’s made his hay — and set a Super Bowl record with 14 receptions against the Falcons last February — catching the rock out of the backfield for the AFC champion New England Patriots.
“It doesn’t really matter to me who wins. James has already got a couple of [rings]. So, really, I wouldn’t mind Corey getting a first one. The chance for a third ring would be legendary — I’d love to see [White] do that. Either way, it would be fun to see as a friend.”
‘It’s pretty crazy, when you think about it’
More than two dozen Badgers alums have played in the NFL’s showcase event, but Sunday is believed to be the first time in a Super Bowl in which the opposing sides are both expected to prominently feature a former Wisconsin back among their respective ball carriers. So no matter how things land Sunday night — Tom Brady or Nick Foles, the Hoodie (Bill Belichick) or the Visor (Doug Pederson) — Mad Town wins either way.
“Oh, sure, it’s awesome,” said Ogunbowale, who played with White in 2012 and 2013 in Madison and with Clement from 2013-16. “Not only knowing both guys, but knowing a couple guys that, besides being in the NFL and playing in the Super Bowl, the fact that they’re from the same school, played together, share the same field, the same running back room and now they’re about to go against each other in the Super Bowl.
“It’s pretty crazy, when you think about it. I’m proud of both of them and just knowing how monumental an accomplishment this is for both of them, and for Corey to be playing in his first Super Bowl.”
Ogunbowale and White’s time together overlapped with the latter’s senior campaign of 1,444 rushing yards and 13 scores in 2013. After White turned pro, Dare switched from walk-on defensive back to Clement’s backfield partner, and the pair combined to score 12 rushing touchdowns in 2015 while hooking up for 20 more in the fall of 2016.
“James, he’s a great leader,” Ogunbowale said of White, who was a senior with the Badgers when Clement was a true freshman. “So Corey being a freshman, I’m sure he took it upon himself to take him under his wing and show him the ropes of Madison, Wis.”
Old gags in position meetings never truly die; neither do old friendships. White, Clement, Ogunbowale, Melvin Gordon and Montee Ball still text each other regularly to cheer the other guys on or to just update them on life in general.
As rookies, Ogunbowale and Clement, when time allowed, shared and compared their first-year highs — and lows.
“Throughout this whole thing, we’ve been kind of going through it together,” Ogunbowale recalled. “At the combine, we were together. At pro day, we were together. After pro day, we both didn’t get drafted … and we’d talked about [how] it’s tough, what he’s trying to do, and are both working our hardest to make it happen.
“And me being able to watch him do what he’s doing and playing now in the Super Bowl, it’s awesome. And at the same time, he’s sent me texts and called and congratulated me for the things I’ve been able to do. It’s real special for someone as close to me, for someone like he does, to be sharing a similar journey, the same [path], it means a lot.”
‘Everything they have gotten, they’ve earned’
They’ve shared the same brotherhood, the same triumphs, the same scars. Especially after neither Badgers bell cow heard their name called during the 2017 NFL Draft.
“Obviously, it sucked for him not to get drafted, and we both wanted to get drafted,” said Ogunbowale, who’s been working out this winter in his native Milwaukee and anticipates Clement joining him in the weight room after Super Bowl 52. “But it motivated him right away, and right away we talked, and we just knew exactly what we had to do. And we always talked about how he wasn’t picked and how it wasn’t a good feeling. As well, to see all the things he’s been able to do and beat a lot of other guys and make plays on special teams and with the ball in his hands, he’s been great. He’s kind of [answered] those doubts and proven those doubters wrong.”
The NFL’s brightest lights burn in January. Some dudes melt in the glare. Hollywood?
“We call Corey Hollywood because he’s not afraid to be on camera and things like that,” Ogunbowale said with a laugh. “James is great at talking to people, too. He’s also not one that needs to be in the spotlight. I’m not saying Corey needs to be in the spotlight — they’re very different in that way.
“On the field, they’re both very hard-working guys. Everything they have gotten, they’ve earned. Especially kind of sharing this journey.”