CHEYENNE – Hours after the final bell rang, and as the sun began to set following another rugged day of practice, Brad Morrison put in extra hours of film study and game prep for that week’s opponent.
Nearly every day for the past two seasons, Morrison saw one of his players return. It was Boe Clayson, along with his dad, Dan, and mom, Jill. They weren’t there to chit chat; they came to work. The Claysons spent hours each night cleaning Burns Junior/Senior High, occasionally slipping out for a quick bite to eat before returning.
“(It) shows what kind of family he has and what kind of kid Boe is,” said Morrison, the second-year Burns football coach. “Hard worker. How many kids would complain about that? And he never did.”
Hard work fuels Clayson’s heart. It’s the rhythm the senior jives to, the hunger he constantly chases, the drive to be the best he always strives for. It’s part of his competitive nature.
Clayson was a standout running back and linebacker for the Broncs last season. His final stats proved it: 958 rushing yards, nine rushing touchdowns, 58 tackles. Clayson knew he needed to get bigger, stronger and faster for his senior year.
After wrestling and track and field were over, Clayson hit the weight room. He trained twice a week over the summer. Whenever Clayson was unable to attend workouts, he let Morrison know, but made sure to take those workouts with him wherever he was.
“I said to myself that I’m going to do it, and I did,” Clayson said. “I made a commitment to myself and for my teammates that I was going to go in and get it done so that I could be the best I could be for them.”
The payoff was both encouraging and rewarding.
Clayson’s bench press went up from around 215 pounds to 240; his power clean from 225 to 250; his squat from 330 to 365; and his deadlift from 400 to 435.
“He is a guy you build around,” Morrison said. “He is one of our pillars of our team. You can count on him. That’s who he is as a person, and that’s who he is as a player, too.”
Clayson took advantage of those off-season gains when the 2019 season kicked off in late August. He enters today’s 7 p.m. kickoff against Glenrock (1-3) as the top rusher in Class 2A (180 yards per game).
During a 42-7 win over Wheatland on Sept. 27, Clayson ran for 339 yards on 39 carries and four touchdowns. His performance was the best in 2A that week. It’s likely he will surpass his rushing total from last season, too.
But that’s not all. Clayson also is one of the best linebackers in 2A. He is averaging 22.8 defensive points per game and more than 13 tackles per contest for the Broncos (2-2). His 53 total tackles are tops in 2A, as well.
“He is one of the best football players in the state,” Morrison said. “He is one of the hardest workers on our team, if not the hardest worker on our team.
“He is just one of those stud kids you get every once in a while at a small school.”
Clayson’s statistics this season are no surprise to Morrison. Not when the coach has seen that same kind of work ethic day in and day out over the off-season, during summer camps and in practice.
“Those are really good things, but I don’t think those are things that push Boe,” Morrison said. “(He) just really wants to win. And if that means he gets the ball 40 times, and if that’s going to let us win, that’s what he wants to do. That’s what he likes to do.”
Clayson’s defensive numbers are up from last season, and Morrison credits that, in part, to the Broncs having a better defense, as well as having a scheme that centers around his standout player.
“The way our defense is set up, it’s to spill stuff to him, and he does a good job of playing his role and making the tackles when they come to him,” the coach said.
It’s much the same on offense, where Clayson is the featured running back and the No. 1 priority for opposing defenses to shut down. But Clayson isn’t one that tries to run outside of the tackles just to break off a long run.
“He is happy to put his head down and get 8 (yards),” Morrison said. “That’s one thing I envy is he plays within what we try to do as a team, and I think doing that is kind of counterintuitive. You would think that looking out for yourself would give you good stats, but doing your job and playing your role is what leads to success individually and the team.”
Clayson symbolizes the type of player that is rare to find. As Morrison said, it’s not often that a player of Clayson’s stature – one you try to build a program around – comes around. Yet Morrison has coached such a player before. Prior to taking over the Burns coaching job, Morrison was an assistant at Thermopolis for six seasons, and he had Tyler Cornwell, a Super 25 selection, on his roster. Cornwell, a two-way player, graduated following the 2015 season.
“(Cornwell) was kid (who) was really good with the ball in his hands and a really productive defensive player,” said Morrison, “and I think Boe is every bit as good as that.”
Individual accolades aren’t what Clayson is about, though. Sure, he enjoys the success he has had over the course of his career. But he also remembers how he got here, and it wasn’t easy, by any means. All the hours spent training in the weight room, lending a hand to help his parents clean the school when no one else was around. It’s all intertwined in his competitive spirit. It’s part of his makeup.
“Competition, in general, is how I’ve thrived throughout my life,” he said. “That’s how I’ve been ever since I was little. It doesn’t really matter what I’m doing; I’m a very competitive person. I enjoy the competition, and then I enjoy the outcome – if it’s in my favor, especially.
“I enjoy competing, and if you train hard enough and you’re willing to put in the work, then you can compete to win, and that’s what I’m doing.”