Rick Clausen, remember him, returns to Tiger Stadium
Saturday, September 24, 2005
By William Kalec
BATON ROUGE - Welcome back, Rick Clausen.
Remember this guy?
He’s the fuzzy-haired distant back-up who left the conscience of Tigerland citizens three years ago, when his only claim to fame was being Casey’s younger brother. Without his mother, Cathy, whose dual-sided LSU/Tennessee jersey TV producers milked incessantly for cut-away shots during the 2001 SEC title game, Rick wouldn’t have received any air time throughout his forgettable stay in Baton Rouge.
During a blink-and-you-miss-it LSU career, Clausen threw 12 passes, completed six (five to Tigers receivers, one to a defender for an interception) for a whopping 35 yards.
So, without fanfare, he transferred to Tennessee.
On Monday night, the departed senior returns to Tiger Stadium - a game he was eager to play back in July when he was one of Tennessee’s representatives for SEC Media Days - and will resume a familiar role, just on the opposite sideline.
In less than a week, Clausen went from the King of Rocky Top - in charge of a top five team, headed into the Swamp against SEC rival Florida for a made-for-national-television match-up - to indefinite backup to Erik Ainge in the sequence of just five attempts. Now, cruelly, his claim to fame is being the older brother of prep phenom, Jimmy, as the opportunity to shine underneath Louisiana’s most glorified row of lights ticks away beginning at 6:30 p.m. Monday.
“All I am asking for is an opportunity,” Clausen said.
Phillip Fulmer gave Clausen a chance, albeit brief.
After bailing out the Vols in 2004 when Ainge separated his shoulder midway through a loss to Notre Dame (Clausen directed Tennessee to the SEC title game and a Cotton Bowl blowout), Fulmer opened the starting job for competition in the spring and fall.
“I talked to Ainge down at the Manning camp, and just looking at his physical ability, I thought it was going to be tough for Rick,” said Tulane quarterback Lester Ricard, who like Clausen opted out of the cluttered situation in Baton Rouge in 2003. “But I think Rick is one of the smartest quarterbacks I’ve seen. That’s the reason why he started at Tennessee. ... And, he’s a fighter. It doesn’t matter how weak his arm is or how inaccurate he is at times – his knowledge, and how hard he fights, is amazing.”
Ainge eventually filled the vacancy…for one week. Clausen donned the rescuer’s cape again and replaced Ainge (5 of 14, 57 yards and two interceptions) in Tennessee’s 17-10 non-conference squeaker over UAB. With an extra week to think, Fulmer gave Clausen the nod.
Then, following two unimpressive series, Fulmer yanked Clausen. He was given the chance to direct a first-half-ending, two-minute drill and then spent the rest of the soupy evening watching Ainge command the Vols’ offense to just seven points. Apparently, that was enough to convince Fulmer to stop the revolving door.
Despite his noticeable progression, Clausen isn’t expected to dirty his uniform unless Ainge is injured.
“Knowledge and size,” Jimbo Fisher answered when asked the differences between then and now. “The knowledge of playing more and Rick grew. When Rick came here he was 160 pounds, now he’s 200, 205 or whatever. He was a young guy when he came. I think his body just caught up. He’s gotten bigger and stronger and it’s allowed him to play and have success …. we’re guilty as coaches. Sometimes, you got to have patience.”