Clay Finds Home Outside BCS

Cody Clay

Fullerton offensive tackle, Cody Clay, chose to stay close to home and play for Division II Azusa Pacific, over offers from various BCS programs.

Offensive tackle, Cody Clay, out of Fullerton City College, made a decision that is uncommon amongst his peers. The 6-foot-7, 305-pound athlete chose to stay close to home and play for Division II Azusa Pacific, instead of accepting various BCS offers.

"I got home late Sunday night from the Tennessee visit and I sat down with my parents and my family and went over the options and offers that I had," he shares. "I just eventually came to choose Azusa Pacific and I called Coach Santa Cruz right away and let him know."

Clay is eager about his choice. He didn't waste any time.

"I got in classes right away, on Monday, and I've been taking classes all week," he tells FOX Sports NEXT. "I was able to get into the classes that I needed and now I'm just going through the first couple of days, finding where the classes are, the cafeteria, meeting the coaches and the guys on the team. We have a big team meeting this afternoon so I'll be able to meet the rest of the players then."

Four days in, Clay is excited about opportunities in the classroom.

"I'm taking a Bible Study class, which is nice," he explains. "I haven't been able to do that since I was in high school at Mater Dei. That's what definitely helped me pick Azusa Pacific, the fact that it's a Christian university."

Religion wasn't the only reason the Cougars were able to reel Clay in.

"I had offers from a number of schools, like Tennessee and Connecticut," the lineman reports. "I also had offers from Nevada and New Mexico, and the previous season I was recruited by the University of Utah, UCLA, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Kansas, and Washington State was also trying to get me over there.

"I've never been the type of guy that needs the nicest facilities, top of the line stuff, to get my work done. None of that stuff was ever going to affect my decision in the long run. "I've never been a person that needs to be in the limelight, that needs to be the center of attention, that needs to be in the public eye. I just felt that at some of these schools, there's so much pressure to perform and you always have eyes on you. I didn't feel that when I went to Azusa."

According to Clay, no other school could match up to what he found at Azusa.

"When I took the visit to Azusa Pacific and got the chance to meet Coach Santa Cruz, I just fell in love with the school right away," he gushes. "Just to know that Coach Jackie Slater is going to be working with me every day at the O-line; his experience of playing 20+ years in the NFL, says something in itself.

"He's a Hall of Fame tackle and he worked with Luke Marquardt this season and got him a lot better. Now, he's going to the NFL Combine and he'll be a contender for the first couple rounds of the NFL Draft. It's pretty exciting to see someone come out of Azusa in a similar situation like me. You know, can I follow in the same footsteps?"

Strong relationships with the coaching staff, opportunity, as well as location, were some of Clay's determining factors.

"Of course, proximity played a part," he admits. "Being able to see my family every once in a while, it's about 45 minutes to an hour drive, depending on traffic. So if there's ever a family emergency or a big family thing going on, I would be able to come home."

As nice as it will be to have the chance to visit home every so often, Clay feels as though he's already found a new home for himself.

"I'm just so glad that they were able to get me in this spring semester," he says. "I've felt nothing but accepted by the players that I've met so far, and the coaches. Everyone on campus seems to already kind of know who I am. I've had people come up to me and say, 'I've read about you in the school paper,' or something like that. It's just nothing but nice folks over here. The campus is wonderful; I love it and I'm really glad to call this place home.

"I'm just really excited to hopefully put this program on the map, where it needs to be. I want to work for the program and not for myself. I want to work for these coaches."

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