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Catching Up: Casey Clausen



July 28, 2011


BY JOHN PAINTER
UTSports.com

He was LA cool, yet completely embraced the SEC.

He was calm and collected in the Tennessee huddle, but these days he admits to being a bundle of nerves watching the Vols play from his living room sofa.

And though he's back in his native California, Casey Clausen proudly carries the Big Orange banner wherever he goes.

"I still keep up with all the guys I played with and I talk to a lot of them," said Clausen, who lettered for the Vols from 2000-03. "And I still talk to a lot of people in the program back there - Scott Altizer, Condredge (Holloway), Frayz (Roger Frazier), Hawk (Allen Sitzler).

"Those were great times, and I can't believe it's been almost 10 years since I graduated."

"Oh, yeah, I remember quite vividly that I was really excited and knew it was a great opportunity for me to go out there and get my first true taste of college football. And we got a win, which was most important."

"Everything happens for a reason, and it just wasn't meant to be in that LSU game (for the SEC Championship). But I told the guys in a meeting that what was done was done, and we had a game against Michigan. We needed to go out there and put our best game forward. I said to the guys that if for whatever reason you can't get ready to play in this game or don't want to put your best effort forward, you might as well sit home and watch us on TV.

"From that point on, we had a great week of practice and then went down to Orlando and had a great result. We played the way were capable of playing against Michigan and had a lot of fun."

"That was the start of a tough junior year for me. We gutted it out. Arkansas was one of the most physical games I ever played in. Once we got to overtime, it was a back-and-forth, marathon game. I remember hitting Jason (Witten) for that winning touchdown and everyone was running over to celebrate. I was trying to run away because my shoulder was hurt pretty bad. But it was a great win."

"I remember James Banks switching over to receiver that year and having his coming-out game. Mark Jones made some really big plays for us. And I remember 4th-and-19 and C.J. Fayton making a big catch for us over the middle to prolong a drive and keep us alive. The defense came up with a big stop and we had another big win over Alabama."

"Coach Fulmer was serious going into that week. We knew Miami was very talented on offense and defense and that was the kind of game we were going to have to play to win. The defense, again, stepped up and made a bunch of big plays and, offensively, when we needed to, we made some big plays and got out of there with a big win."

Second-Leading Passer
Clausen left Knoxville as the second-leading passer in Tennessee football history with 9,707 career yards and 75 passing touchdowns. Both marks are second all time to Peyton Manning .

"Peyton is the best and will be always be the best who ever played at Tennessee," Clausen said. "Being mentioned in the same sentence with him is overwhelming."

Clausen arrived in Knoxville already knowing what an iconic figure Manning had become at UT. But he embraced that standard of excellence and used it to push his game to a higher level.

"He's a big reason why I went to Tennessee, and as time goes on you appreciate a lot more where you fall in those dominos of great quarterbacks at Tennessee," Clausen said. "Not only for college football but for the National Football League, Peyton is going to go down as one of the greatest of all time."

Clausen won 34 games as the starting quarterback in 44 UT starts, including a nearly perfect 14-1 mark in opponents' stadiums.

"I used to love the environment away from home," he said. "I learned a lot about the SEC going on the road, and it really was an exciting time for me. I never got intimidated by the craziness going on out there."

Sensational 2001
His sophomore season of 2001 was especially impressive. The Vols won at Arkansas (13-3) in a driving rainstorm; at Alabama (35-24) behind a dominating fourth quarter; at Notre Dame (28-18) with a second-half surge; at Kentucky (38-35) after twice rallying from 21 points; and, finally, at Florida (34-32) in a game for the ages.

"I loved being out there competing with my guys in somebody else's backyard," Clausen said. "It was an `us-versus-the-world' mentality and it was a lot of fun."

Clausen finished 3-1 against Alabama and won twice in Gainesville.

"Alabama was a great rivalry game and as I got older, I understood it more," he said. "I learned what Tennessee-Alabama meant, and it definitely was a great experience playing in that game every single year.

"And that Florida game in 2001, it was unbelievable - back-and-forth, back-and-forth the whole game and a crazy atmosphere. It was great for us to get that win."

Clausen says butterflies before and during a game were never a factor for him.

"When I played, I never really got that nervous," he said. "I was just out there playing with my guys and was a pretty intense and vocal player. Now back here in California, I'm way more nervous watching on TV. It's kind of funny."

Senior Memories
Looking back, Clausen mentioned one season in particular as the source of his fondest memories. And it wasn't 2001.

"My senior year was the one I was most proud of the guys," Clausen said of the 2003 campaign. "We had lost a lot of really good players the year before and people thought we would only win seven or eight games. We ended up winning 10 games, and it was one of the most fun years I ever had because of the guys on that team."

Clausen divides his time these days between working in his family's commercial brokerage firm and serving as offensive coordinator at Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, located about 40 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Just a few years ago, Clausen's youngest brother, Jimmy, played quarterback at Oaks Christian, which finished 14-0 last season and won seven straight league titles. Jimmy went on to star at Notre Dame and now plays for the NFL's Carolina Panthers. Rick Clausen, who lettered at Tennessee from 2004-05 and served as a graduate assistant for the Vols in 2006, joined his older brother at both the coaching and brokerage jobs. Their sister, Katie, who also graduated from Oaks Christian and UT, is living in the area as well.

That's three Clausens and three University of Tennessee graduates - along with a fourth sibling who probably watched about 50 Vols games from the front row of the north end zone seats at Neyland Stadium.

"Yeah, Jimmy was a little guy back then," Clausen said with a laugh. "But he was there just about every week to watch me and then Rick play. That really meant a lot."

On the Sidelines Now
Clausen appreciates the coaching side of football these days, and knows he's lucky to be with a program of Oaks Christian's stature.

Summer passing leagues recently ended, and practice doesn't resume until the second week of August, when Clausen will begin his fourth season as an assistant coach. Rick helps his older brother coach quarterbacks.

"There are great people here and a great environment, and I'm having a lot of fun doing it."

Clausen also got engaged a little more than a month ago and just purchased his first home.

"Things are going pretty well right now," he said.

Clausen keeps close tabs on the current Vols and believes times are only going to get better under the guidance of head coach Derek Dooley and his staff..

"I like the direction Coach Dooley is taking the program, and I know Coach (Jim) Chaney really well from the time he was at Purdue and recruiting me," he said. "And Coach (Justin) Wilcox, I have gotten to know him a little bit and he seems great. I think they will be back sooner rather than later and I think things are moving in the right direction."

Did You Know?
Clausen led Tennessee to a 28-point victory (45-17) over Michigan in the 2002 Florida Citrus Bowl, tying the school record for largest winning margin in a bowl game. That mark stood for three years - until his brother, Rick, helped the Vols to a 31-point win (38-7) over Texas A&M in the 2005 Cotton Bowl.
 

 

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