Clyburn thrilled to make return
Senior linebacker missed a year due to illness
fort collins» When stretching ends for Colorado State’s football team, the tradition is to bring a player into the middle of the pack to lead Ram Jacks.
As strength and conditioning coach Ryan Davis ushered Deonte Clyburn to lead the task in the first day of spring drills Tuesday, the senior was greeted with loud cries of “He’s back.”
Yes, he is, and the senior linebacker couldn’t be more grateful.
“It was everything I imagined it was going to be like,” the native of Louisville, Ky., said. “A lot of times sitting in your room, a lot of times going to practice last fall, last spring, it was always what if — what if I come back, what if I don’t? Today just really solidified the moment. It was really surreal. I got to run around a lot. I feel good, I feel lighter, I feel faster.
“Just the recognition my teammates gave me and how they have my back right now — it’s a feeling unexplainable.”
After Clyburn sat since the end of the 2015 season with a blood-clot condition, the Rams get back one of their emotional leaders — not just defensively, but throughout the locker room.
That meant the moment he stepped into the middle wasn’t all his.
“It means a lot. He’s been a leader on and off the field. Last year he led and was not able to play, and now to have him back means a whole lot to the entire team,” safety Jake Schlager said. “It’s an awesome thing to see when football is taken away from somebody, it can be taken away from anybody. It’s real life. To see him come back and him be able to play football again is just an awesome feeling, not just for him, but for the entire team.”
There were spells after the news was initially delivered to him that the outlook wasn’t good. As Clyburn explained, test after test might have been better, but they still weren’t good. He could still feel the blood clots working their way through his body, even as he did all he could to remain in shape physically and mentally as he waited and hoped for the day he would receive good news.
He had to prepare himself for the worst, too. He didn’t like life without football, but with a dream of doing announcing like his father and uncle do back home, he completed some internships, narrated “The Grind” series done by the program and learned to edit video.
He never shied away from the program. He was at every practice, attended all the meetings and traveled with the team. He carried around practice scripts and helped coach who he could, and in the process, he found he was becoming an even better student of the game.
His efforts without pads were just as impressive as when he was wearing them.
“The thing about him, his faith and his determination throughout all of this has been remarkable. It has been something a lot of our guys have drawn strength from,” CSU coach Mike Bobo said. “Deonte, he’s a guy who was told he was probably never going to play again, but it didn’t set him back, it didn’t cause him to lose faith. Yes, he was discouraged. He continued to work, he continued to be involved with this football team. He continued to be a leader.”
A few weeks ago, the doctor called him to tell him the outlook seemed good, but to wait a few days. When the positive news finally came, he was told not to let anybody know (but he called his mom, he screaming with joy to match her tears of happiness), and that in a week, he’d get official clearance.
Now he no longer feels the sensation of clots running in his blood stream, just the rush of adrenaline from playing the game.
Colorado State senior Deonte Clyburn, right, leads the team in Ram Jacks on Tuesday as the Rams open spring camp. It was Clyburn’s first practice in more than a year as he sat out all of 2016 with a blood-clot condition. Loveland Reporter-Herald