High-Speed Chase: Imagine Claypool on the End of UW Passes

The Canadian could have been that game-breaking wide receiver the Huskies were lacking in recent seasons.
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Picture this border crossing scene north of Seattle.

Mr. Claypool, anything to declare today?

Yes, I'm bringing considerable football talent into your fine country. In fact, I'm headed to the NFL.

Yeah, right. Maybe the CFL. Mr. Claypool, could you step out of the car please? We'll need to verify what you're saying. Could you run a post route toward Bellingham and turn around?

Today, Chase Claypool is bound for the Pittsburgh Steelers as a second-round draft pick, ready to provide veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with another passing target, after completing a sterling career at Notre Dame.

Two hours north of Husky Stadium, Claypool emerged from Abbotsford, British Columbia, five years ago as this outer-worldly Canadian football recruit, as this guy who originally preferred basketball, whose athleticism got everyone excited in a hurry.

In his rugby- and hockey-crazed town adjacent to the international border, Claypool was an athletic unknown until using social media to post some football highlights and alert the American college football ranks that he, indeed, was out there.

He immediately received scholarship offers from Michigan, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington. He trumpeted the Huskies' sudden interest in a glitzy tweet.

Later on, Claypool fielded serious interest from the likes of Arizona, Miami, Michigan State, Nebraska, Virginia Tech and Washington State.

Not bad for a kid who continually had to fend for himself growing up in a country where football was a decided afterthought. He lived in a small apartment with his single mom, four brothers, two step-brothers and a sister, as detailed here. When he was 13, his sister Ashley, four years older, committed suicide.

He had only a brief flirtation back then with the Washington football program, though a Vancouver sportswriter felt compelled to call up former Huskies and NFL wide receiver Jerome Pathon, another British Columbia athlete of note, and ask him about Claypool.

The kid from Abbotsford grew into a 6-foot-4, 238-pound football player who can run the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds, possessing size and speed that have led to comparisons to the Seattle Seahawks' DK Metcalf.

Over the past season, it was thought the Huskies were just an elusive wide receiver and a mobile inside linebacker from being really good rather than a meandering 8-5 team sent to a second-tier bowl game. 

Yet Notre Dame was too much for Claypool to pass up. He made steady progression in South Bend, Indiana, going from 5 catches to 29 to 50 to 66 in his four seasons with the Fighting Irish. From a modest Rudy-like background, he now pursues a Rocket Ishmael-type future. 

Sports Illustrated's gambling and fantasy analyst Bill Enright, in the accompanying  video, lays out the wide receiver's football impact on the Steelers.

Had they been able to keep Claypool in the Northwest, the Huskies might have avoided last season's falloff. They just needed a few more big plays to get over the hump in each of their five close defeats. 

Quarterback Jacob Eason might have heard few catcalls and had the high-impact season envisioned for him with a little more help downfield. With a deep threat on the order of this Canadian speedster, Eason possibly could have become that first-rounder that everyone once envisioned. Claypool might have used Eason's sturdy arm to climb into the opening round, as well. 

But that's all water under the Montlake bridge. 

Mr. Claypool, what is the purpose of your visit?

Stardom, you say?

Welcome to the U.S., enjoy your stay.