Updated: Oct 19, 2021
The piece was written by Jamal Clay, a frequent contributor of Globally Ballin and founder of "Athlete's Forum"
I’ve always had a lot of energy when I was a child. After trying out a few different sports I discovered football when I was 6 years old. The combination of contact, running and ball handling made it very clear that this sport was the perfect fit for me.
Growing up in Innsbruck, I was very lucky to be put in one of the best situations possible. I played for the European powerhouse Swarco Raiders Tirol where I was able to learn from the best coaches and play with the best teammates in Europe that eventually helped me to succeed.
As I am writing this I sit back and think about my career thus far and some of my most memorable moments. I usually have my most recent plays in mind, but I try to rather concentrate more on the next possibility for a great play than the last one. However, the play that sticks out the most was from the Austrian Bowl in 2019. It was a basic inside zone to the left. Probably about 80% of the time I would cut to the right on this, but this time I didn’t. I saw the linebackers waiting for me to run right and I saw a crease on the left side between the walked-up safety and the Offensive Tackle. I made a move to the outside left and then snapped it inside the Safety. He only got half an arm on me and I was off to the races 70 yards to the endzone, touchdown!
Last summer I got a call from an employee by the NFL International, who was evaluating me to be part of the NFL International Combine in Germany in the fall. I was surprised to get a serious call with a possibility that was within reach. In September I then got the official invite to the combine where I performed well. I guess that was the first moment where I thought: “This might be a legit shot to make it to the NFL.”
I got the call in December telling me I was invited to train at the IMG-Academy as one of only nine chosen athletes from the world. At that moment I didn’t realize what was going on at first. I was certainly motivated that I made it that far, but it took me a few days to think about what just became reality.
I left my home in January to go to Florida for over two months. I was excited, I was hopeful, I was ready. The opportunity was finally there. I had another good offseason where I was in great shape and I invested a lot of time and hard work to get there. This game will test your mental toughness in many ways. Because of a most recent injury on January 1st I had to get knee surgery, it was my 1st surgery ever. It’s unbelievable what goes through your mind in that situation. Something that is completely out of my control, was somehow taking away the biggest chance I have ever gotten in life. But thankfully it all ended up well because the first time I was able to run again was two days before the start of training. The dream was still alive.
This is a very exciting weekend for me. I will follow the draft as a spectator like I usually have, but it will still be exciting to see, who I might end up being on the same team with.
Football has shaped not only my body, but also my mind. If I could go back to 2003 when I first started playing, I would make the same decision to play this great sport and benefit from all the lessons I learned with it: Being part of a team, taking care of my body, overcoming obstacles, how to give my absolute best and the list goes on and on. My advice to the kids who have similar dreams like I do: Use the time you have and don’t waste it. Make decisions wisely. Know what you have to go through. Put your goals first, but don’t forget to focus on other things if you have to. And don’t give up.
It has always meant a lot to me to represent my country (Austria) in European- and World Championships. I would be beyond proud to represent my country in the National Football League and I am sure it would also mean a lot to the fans all across Austria.
This piece was written by Jamal Clay, a frequent contributor of Globally Ballin and the founder of "The Athletes Forum"