Kaelin Clay is back, baby. Bottom line: man should not be judged by what he dropped at the 1-yard line.
The former Utah Utes star might have forgotten for a moment that he was not in the end zone against Oregon and went viral. But on Monday Night Football, he certainly cradled that ball like a baby, refusing to let go as he crossed the pylon Monday night after scoring on an 80-yard punt return touchdown against the Cleveland Browns–his first TD as a pro. (See video.)
In front of a national TV audience on ESPN, Clay repped his new team, the Baltimore Ravens, hard. Looking for a new identity this season after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions cut him loose, the former Ute and sixth round NFL Draft pick of the Bucs has donned the logo and colors of the Ravens–also the home of former Ute Steve Smith.
Nobody needs an introduction to Smith and his skills and antics, but if you aren’t familiar with Clay there is a Taiwanese animation video as well as a slew of actual highlight videos from his days when he didn’t make a mistake and basically ran back a punt or kickoff during every other game in college.
Counting the craziness against Oregon, dude proved at Utah that he could take one back at any moment. Same was true Monday night, as Clay got a sliver of daylight–then blasted down the sideline with yardage to spare as he carefully crossed into the end zone.
Cleveland’s punter completely out-kicked his coverage, unleashing a monster hammer on the pigskin. Pummeling it from inside his own 15 yard line, the knock the Browns punter put on it drove the thing all the way back towards Clay at the opposite 20, forcing the former Ute to backpedal about five yards.
But once Clay got hold of the punt, all he had to do was jump cut to his left to avoid two onrushing defenders, then speed to his right into the flat where all he had was green grass in front of him.
By the time Clay cleared the punter who unleashed that fury a few seconds earlier, the former Ute star still had 40 yards to go before he had scored his first NFL touchdown, redeeming himself in front of a national audience who belittled him last year.