Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 17, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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4 SEPT. 17, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED A tattoo on the right f o r e a r m o f N o t r e Dame junior Chase Claypool serves as both a painful memory of a sister left behind and a constant motivation for everything that lies ahead. The Irish wide receiver lost his older sister, Ash- ley, to suicide almost ex- actly seven years ago, and the permanent message he wears serves as a constant reminder of how close the two were as companions, and in age. Ashley would be 23. Chase is 21. "A thousand tears won't bring you back, I know be- cause I've cried. Neither will a thousand words, I know be- cause I've tried. Until we meet again." Claypool is a relatively private player. He's not one to publicly wear his heart on his sleeve. But, at times, he opens up about Ashley. "I knew how strong she was," he said in 2016, the first time he was asked about his tragic loss. "It was just shocking when it set in, because looking back at it she was giving peo- ple signs, and I wasn't there for her. "So I always try to use it as motiva- tion, trying to make her proud." Claypool has added another disci- pline to his football duties this season to better round out his player pro- file and to hopefully make his sister proud: special teams; more specifi- cally, kick coverage. It's a job Claypool became familiar with as a freshman in 2016 when he led the Irish that season with 11 special teams tackles, eight coming on punt returns. In fact, Claypool recorded al- most half of Notre Dame's 19 total tackles on punt coverage that season. "Chase Claypool is an outstanding special teams player," head coach Brian Kelly said. "And he is a must on all of our kick teams." For full disclosure, Claypool strayed out of his coverage lane on the 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown versus Michigan Sept. 1, but that came from a misplaced kick. Kelly called the mistakes on kickoff coverage "very simply fixed" and praised Claypool for his effort on these often thankless units. "I just think he is maturing as a player," Kelly said. "I'm proud of his development in the sense that he recognizes he has the talent that can help our football team." At almost 6-5 and 230 pounds, Claypool is one of the bigger receivers to ever play at Notre Dame. But NFL rosters carry only 53 players and are loaded with receivers of his stature, so Claypool needs to find a way to separate himself if he hopes to play at the next level, and excelling on special teams might punch his ticket. Interestingly, talk about a profes- sional football career wasn't on Clay- pool's mind four years ago when he was stuffing basketballs and stat sheets as a shooting guard back home at Abbotsford High School in British Columbia, Canada. Claypool averaged 48 points a game as a high school senior, and the night before he signed his letter of intent to play football for Notre Dame, he scored 51 points in a game. But through some nudg- ing from family and area coaches, Claypool decided to give up basketball and pursue a football scholar- ship. A local British Columbia coach named Eddie Ferg sent out football film of Claypool, and there was plenty of to see. As a senior, Claypool's 58 receptions averaged 25.4 yards with 18 touch- downs. He also rushed for 567 yards, passed for three scores and took back two of his four punt returns for touchdowns. Defensively, he recorded 74 tackles and five interceptions. The tape caught the at- tention of then Irish re- cruiting coordinator, Mike Elston, who made the trip to British Columbia and convinced Claypool to at- tend the Irish Invasion recruiting camp that June before his senior season. Claypool freely admits he had no clue what state Notre Dame was even in, let alone that the proud pro- gram features 11 consensus national championships and seven Heisman Trophy winners. "I asked Coach Ferg if Notre Dame was any good," recalled Claypool, who was offered a scholarship im- mediately after the camp, "and he told me they were in the national championship just a few years ago. "I watched 'Rudy' on the plane ride to South Bend. That got me ex- cited." And now Claypool has the Irish coaches excited. His potential is limitless, but only if "he just respects the process and sticks with it," Kelly said. "He's go- ing to be a really good player." Knowing, for sure, that Ashley will be with little brother every step along the way to getting there. ✦ Chase Claypool's Past Fuels His Future UPON FURTHER REVIEW TODD D. BURLAGE Todd D. Burlage has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2005. He can be reached at The loss of his sister Ashley nearly seven years ago serves as a source of con- stant motivation for Claypool. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL

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