Pastor Ted Winsley Sr., pastor of The Family Church in Voorhees, has served as the team chaplain for the Philadelphia Eagles for 17 years. He will lead the prayer for the Eagles prior to the game on Super Bowl Sunday. Chris LaChall/Staff Photographer
On the second shelf down the left side of Corey Clement’s locker at the NovaCare Complex sits a yellow card with stars on the cover and three words sprawled across, “You Did It!!!”
The Philadelphia Eagles running back and 2013 Glassboro High graduate received it earlier this season from Mary Aruffo, his “favorite” teacher from Thomas E. Bowe Elementary School.
Clement’s gotten many congratulatory messages and keepsakes throughout his rookie campaign, and it’s that support that’s helped him reach his “childhood dream” – playing in a Super Bowl.
“Going to middle school, going to high school, it was always embedded in my mind I wanted to be in this position,” Clement said.
And he’s not surprised he’s there.
“I imagined it,” Clement said. “I imagined going to the Super Bowl before I was on the team. That was weird. I didn’t know what team I was going to be on, but I had a feeling that God was going to work in some favor to allow me to be in the Super Bowl.”
Clement’s vision will become a reality on Sunday when the Eagles take on the New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
But the 23-year-old running back's road to the Super Bowl wasn’t an easy one.
While Clement rushed for 1,375 yards and 15 touchdowns during his senior season at Wisconsin, he wasn’t taken with any of the 253 picks in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Clement garnered interest from roughly five teams about signing as an undrafted free agent, but he had no desire to leave the nest.
“It’s home,” he said of Philadelphia. “Who would want to run away from home? You just get a special spark, you get a special feeling, you get a special vibe, you got that extra chip on your shoulder to play for your city. It means more to me than just a football team. It means more than myself. It’s bigger than that.”
It wasn’t the easiest path to a roster spot though.
The Eagles entered camp with a stacked running back stable, led by LeGarrette Blount, Darren Sporles and Wendell Smallwood. They also drafted Donnel Pumphrey in the fourth round, meaning Clement was a long shot to stick around.
“I would say him and I had a really similar situation,” Eagles tight end Trey Burton said. “He came in, the running back position was loaded, you look at it on paper and you’re like wow, there’s no chance he’s making the team.”
Clement was never concerned though.
“I knew I wasn’t no caliber of an undrafted free agent,” he said. “I knew I was more than that. If anything, once I got on the team it was just playing football. I’ve been playing football all my life so if anybody had something negative to say about my performance, I would just look ’em in the eye and say check the film. I should’ve been (drafted).”
That’s what his teammates thought when they first saw him.
“I actually have no idea why he wasn’t drafted because he’s really talented and works his butt off,” Eagles guard Stefen Wisniewski said.
“We seen something special in him,” added receiver Alshon Jeffery.
Like Clement, Blount was an undrafted free agent too, and he’s overcome the odds to win a pair of Super Bowls with the Patriots.
“You just got to be patient, opportunistic,” Blount said. “You’ve got to take advantage of every opportunity. I think he’s a prime example of one of the guys that’ve done that.
“I’d say what stood out the most to me in the beginning, like OTAs and offseason workouts was just his work ethic. He refuses to be denied.”
That’s been Clement’s approach all season. He not only forced himself onto the roster, he also carved out playing time as well.
Clement leads all Eagle running backs in rushing touchdowns (four) and total TDs (6).
And he’s continued to get action in the postseason.
Clement caught a team-high five passes in the NFC Divisional Round against the Falcons, and was the back that pitched the ball to Nick Foles for his flea-flicker touchdown to Torrey Smith in the NFC Championship game.
“I just watched with Nick as the ball just soared in the air and then I looked at him once he caught and I’m like, ‘Good (stuff) Nick,’” said Clement, who called that play his most memorable to date. “The crowd went crazy and it was just a big moment and that’s when I knew we took the game away from them.”
“He has it all,” former first-round pick Lane Johnson said. “He put together a great rookie season and I think he’ll be even better next year.”
That’s the plan, but Clement is focused on Sunday first, and the spotlight isn’t too bright for him.
“It’s sunk in,” Clement said. “It’s football. I like to not make it bigger than it is. It’s just going out to play another game, and like I said we’re playing the Patriots, not the Super Bowl. That’s the mindset you got to have going into it, so it’s just all about being locked in and playing another football game and make sure you’re coming out on top.”
Josh Friedman; @JFriedman57; (856) 486-2431; email@example.com
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