NFL: Rookie T.J. Clemmings on Bridgewater’s Secret Service
By Chris TomassonSt. Paul Pioneer Press T.J. Clemmings' primary job now is to protect Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. One day, he could be protecting the president. The Vikings rookie offensive tackle has thoughts of joining the Secret Ser...
By Chris Tomasson
St. Paul Pioneer Press
T.J. Clemmings’ primary job now is to protect Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. One day, he could be protecting the president.
The Vikings rookie offensive tackle has thoughts of joining the Secret Service following his playing days.
Clemmings majored in criminal justice at the University of Pittsburgh and had an internship with the Secret Service in the summer of 2014.
“Not just the Secret Service, but also law enforcement,” Clemmings said of his aspirations. “There are so many different fields and so many different things... But one of those is probably what I’ll get into after football.”
Perhaps the 6-foot-5, 309-pound Clemmings eventually will wear a suit and an earpiece while guarding a public official. As for his internship in Pittsburgh, it mostly involved a different kind of work.
“I learned about how to look at currency and tell the difference between fake money and real money,” he said.
A fourth-round pick in last April’s draft, Clemmings had a chance to meet President Obama when he came to Pittsburgh for a visit in June 2014. However, Clemmings said, he turned it down because of summer workouts.
“The coaches would have let me go to that because that was a once-in-lifetime opportunity,” he explained. “But I felt I probably needed to be with the team at the time. It was a hard decision. I guess I’ll have to wait until (winning a) Super Bowl.”
The right tackle’s quest begins in earnest in the regular-season opener Monday night at San Francisco.
He likely will be the team’s only rookie to start.
The initial plan was to bring Clemmings along slowly, but that changed when Phil Loadholt was lost for the season with a torn left Achilles tendon suffered in an Aug. 15 preseason game against Tampa Bay.
Clemmings ran into that game on the third play, then started the next two preseason games. He vows he’s now ready for the regular season.
“My goal was to come in and learn as much as I can and prepare myself to play, and now I’m here,” Clemmings said. “It’s been a pretty good start overall. I definitely got my feet wet a little bit, just getting acclimated with the team and just seeing things differently and learning how to play fast.”
It might seem a surprise for a fourth-round pick to open a season as a starter on the offensive line. Then again, Clemmings wasn’t your typical mid-round selection.
Clemmings was projected by many to go in the first round before concerns over a medical exam from the NFL Scouting Combine, which showed he once had a foot injury. Clemmings said he never knew about the possible injury, and never has had any issues with his foot.
Still, he slipped in the draft and it cost him a lot of money. The final pick of the first round, New England defensive tackle Malcom Brown, signed a four-year contract worth $7.6 million; Clemmings’ four-year deal is for $2.8 million.
“When you expect things to go one way and it doesn’t go the way you expect it to, it’s a little tough,” Clemmings said. “But once I got the phone call (from the Vikings), I was the happiest man in the world.”
Dropping in the draft has worked out well for Clemmings and for the Vikings.
If Clemmings had been picked earlier and by another team, there’s no guarantee he now would be starting. And if the Vikings hadn’t taken Clemmings, they might be in real trouble on the line.
They also have lost tackle Carter Bykowski to a season-ending injury, and 2014 fifth-round pick David Yankey and 2015 sixth-round selection Tyrus Thompson weren’t deemed good enough to keep on the 53-man roster.
“He’s gotten a lot better with his initial sets and his technique,” offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. “I think he’s getting better every day. He’s got a long ways to go. ... I like his athleticism, I like his toughness, his ability to compete. He’s got long arms, he’s not fazed right now by the big picture, the game.”
There are understandable concerns about the right side of the offensive line. Clemmings is a rookie, and Mike Harris, a converted tackle, has never started a game at guard.
“I don’t pay any mind to that”, Harris said. “T.J.’s done a good job as a rookie. Me and him, we’re gelling together. Monday is going to be a good test for us, and we’ll be fine ... T.J. wants to get better every day. He’s working on his craft, doing whatever extra it takes.”
Clemmings wants to have at least a 10-year NFL career. Then he vows to start working on his next career.
“He’d be good (in the Secret Service),” Harris said. “He’s very disciplined. But I guess I’ve got to watch what I say around him.”