Goss: Good things happen in a hurry for Nick Clancy
By Dick Goss firstname.lastname@example.org January 26, 2013 12:36AM
Boston College linebacker Nick Clancy (Joliet Catholic) will play in the Texas vs. The Nation All-Star Game Feb. 2 and is a prospect for the NFL draft in April. | AP Photo
Updated: February 28, 2013 6:38AM
Look up the definition of the phrase “flying under the radar,” and chances are you will see a picture of Nick Clancy.
The Boston College fifth-year senior inside linebacker had been the big man on campus at Joliet Catholic. When he moved on to college, his star power vanished.
“I had never really gotten a shot at BC, for whatever reason,” Clancy said of his first four years there. “I found myself in those tough spots, moments where my mind was being tested. The coaches were bouncing me around and not giving me a true opportunity even though I always knew I could do it.
“I’m glad my parents (Roseanne and Mike) were there to calm me down. Going from an all-star in high school to lower on the totem pole gives you a new perspective on the game. It humbled me.”
Leading up to his senior season, Clancy had reached No. 2 on the Eagles depth chart and seen playing time at both strongside and weakside linebacker. But he didn’t start, never was the man.
Part of that was because current NFL players Mark Herlich (Giants) and then Luke Kuechly (Panthers) manned the inside spot. Kuechly, in fact, was the defensive rookie of the year this season.
After his redshirt junior season, the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Clancy decided he had nothing to lose.
“The opportunity was there for someone to fill Kuechly’s shoes,” Clancy said. “I asked my coach (defensive coordinator Bill McGovern) about giving me a shot in the middle. He said, ‘If you’re up for it, it’s yours.’
“I took it from there. I busted my butt in the film rooms and increased my football IQ as best I could. I tried my best to groom myself to be a starter for the first time, to make sure my body would be ready every week.”
All he did was finish third in the nation in NCAA Division I with 145 tackles, including four for loss, despite missing nearly all the Notre Dame game with a concussion suffered on the second play. His speed helped him break up 10 passes, he forced a fumble and blocked a kick. With little previous fanfare, he became a first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference pick by the coaches and media.
Before 26 family members, Clancy recorded 24 tackles in the Eagles’ 22-13 loss Sept 15 to Northwestern in Evanston. He made 17 solo stops and 20 total in the Nov. 17 game against Virginia Tech. Those were the only games all season in which an ACC defender had 20 or more tackles.
“The Northwestern game was like a personal homecoming,” said Clancy, whose older brother Chris played football at Ball State. “I knew I had the talent to perform as I did this year. I wasn’t going to hold back once I got the opportunity. It all goes back to that one moment when my coach said I was the starting inside linebacker.”
Boston College finished 2-10, which helped mask Clancy’s accomplishments. He was not invited to the NFL Combine and did not participate in the Senior Bowl or East-West Shrine Game. However, he will play in the Texas vs. The Nation game Saturday in Allen, Texas. It will be televised at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports.
“A guy like me who has not been on the national radar for very long has a chance in this game to show more scouts that I’m capable of playing on the next level,” said Clancy, who grew up in Plainfield. “I know I’m on a lot of teams’ draft boards, but there are many other teams that don’t know much about me yet. This game is an opportunity for them to see me practice and play, see how I carry myself, all those aspects they look for in a football player and person.”
Projections for the April 25 NFL draft have Clancy No. 10 or 11 among inside linebackers. He has his Pro Day scheduled March 13 at Boston College and is working hard to prepare.
“The goal for every NFL prospect is to get drafted,” said Clancy, who has an agent. “But being a priority free agent, if that’s the way it works out, isn’t bad either.
“Say I’m drafted by the Bears but they’re loaded with linebackers. I wouldn’t have any choice but to sign with them even if that wouldn’t be a good fit. Whereas if I were a free agent, I could contact teams low on linebackers.”
Clancy feels comfortable playing inside linebacker, where he can run sideline-to-sideline, and says an NFL team probably will see that as his position.
“One of the things I always prided myself on was football instincts, the ability to know where the ball is going,” Clancy said. “The middle linebacker is essentially the quarterback of the defense. He makes the calls and checks. He is responsible for 10 other guys. I like that aspect of the job. When I got to play there, a light went off in my head.
“But if I play outside, that’s OK, too. Any way I can get on the field.”
During our conversation, Clancy, who has earned a degree in communications and begun graduate work, was resting from a vigorous workout in Arizona.
“You know who’s working out down here with me — Graham Pocic,” Clancy said of the 6-7, 310-pound Illinois center from Lemont who also is an NFL hopeful. “Can you believe he’s a center, as big as he is?
“You know who else is down here — Rudy (John Ruettiger, the Baltimore Orioles’ outfield prospect who was Clancy’s classmate and teammate at Joliet Catholic). I see him a couple days a week, anyway. Man, is he working his butt off. He’s putting on weight and training hard. He wants to get to the major leagues this season.”
How about Clancy in the NFL in 2013? Flying under the radar to become one of the nation’s leading tacklers — why not?