Every time negative thoughts creep into Corey Clement's worrisome mind, he answers them the same way. No, he won't get hurt. No, he won't fail a test. No, he won't make mistakes in relationships.
But for reassurance, the 5' 11", 219-pound junior who is expected to be Wisconsin's next great tailback actually says no aloud to dismiss his negative thoughts. "People always look at me like I'm stupid," Clement told The Inside Read. "But I have to say no because I always try to remain positive."
The easygoing Clement acknowledges his habit is peculiar, but then again little is conventional about him. When he and the No. 20 Badgers take the field Saturday against No. 3 Alabama in Arlington, Texas, he will be wearing a different type of cleat on each foot.
"I'm a superstitious guy that likes to try different things, who's very outgoing and only wants the best for myself and others," Clement said. "I look out for everybody's best interests and I don't want any negative vibes around me whatsoever."
Clement's mismatched cleats date back to January, when he rushed for 105 yards and scored a touchdown in Wisconsin's 34-31 overtime victory over Auburn in the Outback Bowl. It was his first career start after two years of backing up Melvin Gordon, a first-round pick in May's NFL draft.
Clement was forced to wear the different shoes after accidentally packing one apiece from two pairs for the bowl trip. He has continued the custom ever since and gets annoyed when teammates still ask if he knows he's wearing two different cleats. They tease the nearly 1,000-yard rusher from a year ago that his mismatched shoes make him look like a "Dancing With The Stars" contestant. "I'm doing this for the health of the team to make us keep winning," Clement said of his cleat superstition.
Clement's quirks, however, go beyond the field. They start when he wakes up each morning. He brushes his teeth for at least three minutes and 50 seconds. He keeps track of the time by counting in numerical order. "It's weird," Clement said with a laugh.
Clement also refuses to take off a black plastic wristband that reads "Dare To Believe," a lucky charm he received three years ago from a bible study group. It's representative of his belief that he can achieve all through God.
But for all of Clement's faith, he remains anxious. He traces it back to three years ago when he was a record-breaking recruit as a senior at Glassboro (N.J.) High. "With all the injuries I see during football, I'm just like, no, I can't have it happen to me," Clement said. "I just say no. I have to think positive. I have to be proactive about everything that I do."
Because if Clement isn't, he insists, he will get hurt. He cites a right shoulder injury he suffered in a win over Nebraska last season as an example. "I thought too many negative thoughts and that's why I got hurt," Clement said.
Prior to that contest, he recalls daydreaming in a lecture when he suddenly had a negative thought. "Damn, I could get hurt tomorrow," Clement remembers thinking. It was a thought Clement kept having over and over until he finally yelled out, "No!" "I had to say it loud enough to actually hear my regular voice," Clement said.
Clement's sudden outburst drew puzzled looks from nearby students. And when Clement did get injured against the Cornhuskers, he came to a realization about his efforts to rid himself of negative thoughts. "I really have to say no like I mean it," Clement said.
As concerned as Clement is about negative thoughts, he is also just as wary about karma. "Why would you want it to happen to you?" Clement said. "That's why I always try to stay in good graces. I really hate to down-talk somebody because I can go out one day and something bad happens to me. That's why when somebody tries to talk bad about somebody, I'm not about to engage and get your karma vibe on me."
Yet for all of Clement's mystical beliefs, he has his limits. He refuses to visit a psychic. Not that he needs to while still riding the cheerful karma of being one of Wisconsin's representatives at Big Ten media days in Chicago.
"I feel so happy and blessed to be in this position," Clement said. "To remain healthy and have a positive team behind me is all good. I've been waiting patiently."
He just has to keep saying no.
Long journey leads Eliah Drinkwitz to Boise State
While working under an Arkansas high school coach named Gus Malzahn just over a decade ago, Eliah Drinkwitz and a friend piled into a Chevrolet Tahoe and drove two hours to Oklahoma. They made the trip to watch up-and-coming Boise State beat Tulsa 45-42 on a last-minute field goal in 2004 with then-Broncos offensive coordinator Chris Petersen and his young tight ends coach Bryan Harsin.
"We thought we were hot stuff," Drinkwitz told The Inside Read. "We loved it. Both of us in the back of our minds were thinking, 'Man, it'd be awesome to coach college football,' but I never dreamed that big."
When Petersen and Harsin meet Friday night as Washington and Boise State's respective coaches, Drinkwitz will be there again. This time he'll be on the field as the Broncos' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Drinkwitz was promoted from Boise State's tight ends coach in February when offensive coordinator Mike Sanford left for the same position at Notre Dame. "Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this," Drinkwitz said. "You've just kind of got to laugh like, 'Are you kidding me?'"
It has been a meteoric rise for the brainy Drinkwitz, who Harsin once described as a football "supercomputer." Just a decade ago, Drinkwitz was coaching seventh-grade football, his first full-time job, in his native Alma, Ark., which proclaims itself as the "Spinach Capital of The World."
He still proudly recalls how he used to water, mow and chalk the field for his teams in the town with a population of 5,523. Teams as in plural, because seventh-graders were divided into two squads to ensure equal playing time.
Drinkwitz coached both teams on the same nights in back-to-back games. He also drove the bus to and from road games. "I thought I was in the prime time," Drinkwitz said. "I thought it was the best job in the country. I loved it. Coaching at Alma was a dream come true for me. It was awesome. I was fired up for it."
It has been a dizzying journey for Drinkwitz since his year coaching seventh-grade football in 2005. The next year he went to be an assistant at Springdale (Ark.) High after Malzahn left. When Malzahn became Auburn's offensive coordinator three years later, he took Drinkwitz with him as a graduate assistant and they won a national championship their first year.
Drinkwitz followed Malzahn again when Malzahn was hired as Arkansas State's coach in 2012. Less than a year later, Harsin retained Drinkwitz after Malzahn returned to Auburn as its head coach.
Harsin and Drinkwitz then left for Boise State in late 2013. "The bottom line is I'm kind of dorky," Drinkwitz said. "I love football. I work hard at it. I've been blessed to coach some really good players and be around some really good people. That's kind of it."
Drinkwitz knows that all sounds too good to be true. His ascent in college football has happened so quickly he's hesitant to tell the story about attending that Boise State-Tulsa game just over a decade ago.
It's one Harsin enjoys, but Drinkwitz purposely doesn't bring it up too often. "I try to be a little bit careful," Drinkwitz said with a laugh. "I don't want him to think, 'Holy cow, I've hired this guy.'"
Virginia assistant Chris Beatty bounces to his own beat
As Jay Z's new single "Hard Knock Life" blasted over the loudspeakers at Virginia's North Stafford High, Mike London was confused. The then-Boston College defensive line coach watched as the school's players danced around the field in pregame warmups, but he couldn't find the team's coach. He finally had to ask a cheerleader, who pointed him back toward the raucous scene, a rare sight for 1998.
In the middle of it was the coach, Chris Beatty, bouncing to the rap anthem's indelible beat. "I let my players have some freedom," Beatty told The Inside Read with a laugh. "So they were creative."
London never forgot it, which is why the sixth-year Virginia coach hired Beatty in January as his new running backs coach. London needs Beatty's swagger to rub off on the Cavaliers, who open their season Saturday at No. 13 UCLA.
It's a critical campaign for London's future as he tries to save his job after three straight losing seasons. "It's a big deal to come back," Beatty said. "There's obviously a great sense of pride."
Beatty's new job is a homecoming. He grew up in the Fairfax, Va., area and fondly recalls attending Cavaliers' games with his father. His heroes were quarterback Shawn Moore and wide receiver Herman Moore, who led Virginia to the program's first No. 1 ranking in 1990. "Coaching here," Beatty said, "it's a privilege."
Besides North Stafford High, Beatty was also the coach at in-state Salem High and Virginia Beach's Landstown High. He won a state championship at the latter in 2004 with Percy Harvin.
The 42-year-old Beatty broke into major college football three years later as running backs coach at Northern Illinois. He was later an assistant at West Virginia, Vanderbilt and Illinois before spending the past two seasons as Wisconsin's wide receivers coach.
He laughs now while recalling the difficulty of trying to entice recruits in Virginia to those stops. "It's a whole lot easier now," Beatty said.
A noted recruiter, Beatty has leveraged relationships to secure six current commitments for the Cavaliers from his recruiting territory of Virginia's Fairfax, Prince William and Stafford counties. But he is eager to return to the fertile Tidewater area, his old stomping grounds. "It's been great," Beatty said. "We've been able to make some inroads and improve some relationships."
Many high school coaches in Virginia still remember Beatty the same way London first met him. It's a story London tells often with plenty of laughter about his assistant.
"I'm proud of that time," Beatty said.
These days, Beatty still listens to Jay Z, but he doesn't dance anymore. This season, he's hoping Virginia fans have plenty of reasons to do so.
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