Kellen Clute inspires team in final season

Brenden Slaughter, Sports Reporter

Injuries and scheme changes has not stopped Clute from mentoring the younger tight ends

Many football players that have had two season-ending injuries in their career would choose to hang up the cleats. For Kellen Clute, it’s about finishing his career on a positive note.

It’s never easy to overcome multiple injuries to the same knee, particularly MCL tears that have a tendency to end careers. Clute experienced this injury both in 2011 and 2013, but the injuries drove him to the opposite of what might be expected. Instead of quitting, he returned. Instead of bailing on his team, he became one of the most pivotal leaders in the program, benefitting the Beavers’ young tight ends.

“The biggest obstacle when you are coming off multiple knee injuries is just the mental aspect,” Clute said. “There is a time period when you don’t feel comfortable hitting people. It was a traumatic thing for me both times and it takes some getting used to.”

Clute’s mom Karri has seen firsthand just how much his determination has led him to overcome his injuries.

“Coming off his injuries just shows how mentally tough he is and his commitment to finish what he started at OSU,” Karri Clute said. “He knew the process of recovery wouldn’t be easy or fun, but was determined to not let injuries define his career.”

In spring 2015, Clute was coming off his second MCL injury at OSU and he was learning a new offense led by first year head coach Gary Andersen and offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Dave Baldwin. 

The transition from the pro style offense to the spread formation was an adjustment for Clute, especially after coming off numerous injury setbacks and adjusting to an offense that doesn’t feature tight ends.

After not being 100 percent healthy in the spring, Clute returned to full strength in fall camp only to begin a competition for playing time with true freshman Noah Togiai, who ended up siphoning much of Clute’s role as the season progressed.

Baldwin has seen how maturely Clute has handled the injury situation and the challenge of splitting time with Togiai.

“I know this season has been tough on him because he is battling in and out with a young freshman, but with Togiai playing he has shown great leadership,” Baldwin said. “He has handled the situation well. He has great character and he is a good kid.”

It was at this point when he understood he was going to have to be a leader. He soon became not only a tight end that competes for starting snaps, but a teacher and role model to freshman tight ends Togiai and Tuli Wily-Matagi.

“I think I have a really good mind for this game and that shows in my training of these young guys,” Clute said. “I try to help these guys learn all the little things that they need to have to be successful.

“He has been a huge influence for me and Tuli ever since we got in,” Togiai said. “Every time I do anything wrong or have a question about anything, he is the first one that I look to.” 

It isn’t just the current players in the program that have seen Clute’s work ethic coming back from his injury. Former OSU receiver Richard Mullaney, one of his closest friends, has seen just how much determination he has.

“Clute has great work ethic and I really admire it. It’s been great being able to see him grow as a football person and a person for these past five years,” Mullaney said. “He is always willing to put in the extra work.”

Clute’s time on the field is ending as he plays his final game in a Beaver uniform this weekend against the Oregon Ducks. He marveles at exactly how fast it has all gone, but feels that he has left his mark on the program.

“Being a part of this program and the all success that we’ve had a unit has been amazing,” Clute said. “Being looked at as guy who helped the younger guys learn the system and being remembered for that in addition to my play here would be something I’ll always remember.”

On Twitter @b_slaught

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