Colorado State football is less than one week from opening its on-campus stadium on a game day Saturday for the very first time. Students are back on campus and freshmen even participated in a pep rally event last Saturday night. The event allowed first-year students to watch part of the final practice of fall camp and was designed to pump up the students for the upcoming football season.
With so much excitement in the atmosphere, it is easy to forget that CSU football is without one of their emotional leaders for the time being. Amid the pep rally buzz Saturday night, head coach Mike Bobo confirmed that senior linebacker Deonte Clyburn will once again be sidelined with the same blood clot issue that resulted in him missing the 2016 season.
“It’s obviously a big blow for us that he’s not there,” head coach Mike Bobo said at the team’s weekly press conference Monday. “Here’s a young man that has put a lot into this university, this community and this football team because he wears his heart on his sleeve.”
On the field, Clyburn is easy to spot. Just look for the linebacker that seems to always be around the ball carrier. In 29 career appearances, Clyburn has recorded 107 total tackles, seven of which were for a loss.
“Those guys know it,” Bobo said. “They know how much it means to him to be a part of this this family and this football team. They know how much it means to play with those guys and play the sport of football. So that absence is going to be felt by them.”
Beyond his performance on the field, the loss of Clyburn is extremely disappointing for the CSU football program for a variety of reasons. None more than from a leadership standpoint.
Despite being sidelined with unfortunate circumstances, Clyburn’s dedication to the program has never wavered. Throughout the 2016 season, no matter what was happening on the field, Clyburn was the same passionate, vocal leader who broke through as a junior in 2015.
After watching their leader go through so much off the field and then battle all the way back, just to find out he will be sidelined again this season is a huge blow to morale. Clyburn’s return was one of the best stories of the offseason and it was obvious that his teammates and coaches were thrilled to have him back on the field.
That being said, if anyone could find a way to make it through this tough situation with a smile, it would be Deonte Clyburn. After all, when the helmets come off, Clyburn’s personality really shines.
The way he speaks with intensity and passion with every statement he makes to his teammates. The way he radiates confidence, despite having battled through extreme emotional adversity. The way he carries himself on this campus, in the community and in his everyday life.
Clyburn possesses the type of leadership that cannot be taught and I fully expect him to be as involved with the program as he always has been. In fact, I would be shocked if Clyburn was not more vocal than ever this fall.
Without him in the mix for the time being, look for guys like Evan Colorito, Josh Watson and Jordan Fogal to continue asserting themselves as leaders on the field.
“Those guys have stepped up in a leadership role for us,” Bobo said.
Collegian sports director Justin Michael can be reached by email at email@example.com or Twitter @JustinTMichael.