The Eagles leading receiver in Super Bowl LII, an improbable 41-33 win over the dynastic Patriots, wasn’t their highly paid ace wideout Alshon Jeffery (3-for-73 yards), it wasn’t their all-around top-3 tight end Zach Ertz (6-for-67) or even breakout youngster Nelson Agholor (9-for-84).
No, the player with the most recieveing yards was an undrafted free agent running back who started the year as a special teams player. One who went to Glassboro High School in South Jersey and grew up as an Eagles’ fan. And for Corey Clement, the 22-yard touchdown pass he caught in the back of the end zone was a validation of the journey he’s taken over an action-packed year with his hometown team.
“I said ‘please don’t take this from me,'” Clement recalled of the play, which was reviewed for control and for feet placement Sunday night. “You never know when those moments could happen again. I knew I secured it but it was all about the feet.”
It’s remarkable they happened to Clement at all. It’s one thing to earn reps as a rookie at running back on a winning team. It’s another to score six regular season touchdowns and parlay them into getting valuable reps in a Super Bowl.
“You can’t take it for granted,” the Wisconsin product said. “Not many rookies get put in such a spotlight, getting counted on at the same time. Coach Pederson could have easily given it to somebody else who is a veteran.”
Clement was there for a bevy of important plays, including the double reverse pass by Trey Burton to Nick Foles on fourth down. Clement was the one who tossed the ball to tight end Burton, a former quarterback to score one of the most epic touchdowns in Super Bowl history.
“We practiced it for the last two weeks,” Clement said of the play, called Phily Special, “and we were ready to do it live and see how it was going to work. Nick, I was hoping his hands were ready and we did what we did.”
Clement had 100 yards in total, including a 55-yard catch and run in the middle of the slugfest that was Super Bowl LII. It’s likely that soon-to-be free agent LeGarrette Blount will not be resigned, leaving Clement and Jay Ajayi as the Eagles’ top two backs (in addition to a potential return fron Darren Sproles).
Clement’s ascention to the top of the football mountaintop, essentially from unwanted to champion is a model for aspiring undrafted players.
“Just keep believing,” he said, “regardless of where you go in the draft or if you don’t get drafted. It’s not the end of the road. You get to look back and reflect on who passed you. I am grateful to the Philadelphia Eagles for giving me the chance. I’ve been counted out so many times I really don’t understand why I didn’t get drafted but now I’m a Super Bowl champion.”
For the record, 26 running backs — including Donnell Pumphrey who didn’t make the Eagles’ 53-man roster as a 2017 fourth round pick, went while Clement did not. It’s a credit to running backs coach Duce Staley for finding Clement and convincing him to come to training camp last spring.
“Staley called and said I should come here,” Clement said. “He said ‘you don’t want to go anywhere else you want to go here,’ he knew it was my hometown, he knew I had a knack for always competing.