Kaelin Clay came to the University of Utah looking to do big things. He wanted to make a mark in his one year to play college football. He spent one year at Cal as a redshirt, and then he transferred to Mount San Antonio CC in Walnut, California. There he was spotted by the Utes, and was given an offer, but Clay failed to qualify in 2013. The Utes held that scholarship up until the last few weeks of fall camp hoping Clay would qualify academically. When he did, he was immediately was penciled in as the starter at kick returner and punt returner.
Kaelin Clay did not start Utah's first game of 2014 at punt returner versus Idaho State, as Bubble Poole started the game fielding punts. Fast forward to the second quarter, Clay went out to field for the first time, and the first punt return of his Utah career. He fielded the punt, and 41 yards later, after escaping a few defenders, he was in the endzone for his first Utah touchdown. Later in the game he fielded a kickoff, and returned it 100 yards for his second touchdown. Two times touching the ball, and two touchdowns. For Utah fans, this was Shaky Smithson, and Reggie Dunn both in one player. Some Utah fans however pointed out after the game, that on his kickoff return Clay actually dropped the ball at the one yard line, but it was not called by the officials.
In the coming weeks he would return a punt in Ann Arbor, MI, in the Big House versus the Wolverines, which included a Heisman pose in the endzone where it all started with Desmond Howard. He also had another return in a losing effort in Rice-Eccles versus Washington State. Teams would learn not kick to Clay, and his return numbers dropped. Knowing a player like Clay needs the ball in his hands, he started to see more action on offense. In what may go down as the best play of his career, Clay scored the game winner in Utah's biggest game, in front of the largest crowd in Rice-Eccles Stadium history.
His touchdown versus USC would have been the play that defined Clay's short career at Utah, had it not been for an unfortunately lapse in judgment versus Oregon, that not only made national headlines, but also made world headlines. A huge mistake he owned up to, but it seemed to never go away. Clay took it in stride, and didn't let it derail his season.
As Utah fans look back on Kaelin Clay's one year career at Utah, they will have very fond memories of his memorable plays in his short time in Salt Lake City. They will remember more than the one dubious play that made him a household name. He now has the opportunity to make a name for himself in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and chances are he will have the opportunity to make headlines for the right reasons on the next level.
Make sure to check back as we unveil the rest of the top-10 athletes from the 2014-15 year.