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Steelers select Valley's Clemons in 7th round of NFL Draft

Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Valley High School and University of Colorado graduate Tony Clemons visits Valley Memorial Stadium in New Kensington as he prepares for the NFL draft in April.

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Saturday, April 28, 2012, 6:56 p.m.

Toney Clemons always held out hope that he would play for the Steelers, but the former Valley star always figured it was more wishful thinking than anything else.

That was especially Clemons' thinking after having a mostly undistinguished career at both Michigan and Colorado.

“I had a rough career, and I wasn't sure how the Steelers felt about me,” Clemons said.

Clemons found out exactly how the Steelers felt about him on the final day of the NFL Draft. They used their first of four seventh-round picks Saturday to select the tall, speedy wide receiver.

“It's really a dream come true,” said Clemons, who grew up in New Kensington. “I don't know if there's really a word out there to describe how I'm feeling. Maybe exuberant, maybe astonished …”

Maybe he's just feeling it's about time something broke his way.

Clemons spent his entire collegiate career bouncing between among teams and playing for different head coaches.

He was recruited to Michigan by Lloyd Carr and played as a freshman; was under Rich Rodriguez for a year at Michigan as well; transferred to Colorado to play for Dan Hawkins; was coached by Brian Cabal for a couple of months after Hawkins was fired during Clemons' junior year; and played his senior year for John Embree.

“I had a different receivers coach; every year I had a different head coach,” Clemons said “Every year I was learning something different. I was starting over every single day, and every year.”

But finally it clicked for Clemons at the end of his senior year, and the Steelers took notice.

“I thought he was a young man that was hungry for an opportunity,” receivers coach Scottie Montgomery said. “He had the film as of late to back that up.”

Clemons had three 100-yard games in his final four starts. He had 112 yards and two touchdowns against USC, 115 and a touchdown against Arizona and 102 against Utah in his final collegiate game.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin noticed the production against some top-quality teams.

“He made some combat catches (in those games),” Tomlin said. “He was very physical in the blocking game, as well with the wide receiver screens and bubbles.”

Clemons is sure that helped him get drafted.

“It was huge for me because without those games, playing against those teams and making plays the way I did against that top talent, I wouldn't have even had a shot to be on anybody's radar,” Clemons said.

In two years at Colorado, Clemons, who ran a 4.36 40-yard dash during his Pro Day, had 86 catches for 1,162 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The Steelers released Hines Ward and Arnaz Battle in the offseason leaving an opening at the fifth wide receiver spot.

At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, the Steelers are hoping Clemons can be that guy.

“We think Toney Clemons has a chance to compete for that spot,” Colbert said. “This kid can make some small-man catches and some small-man run-after-the-catches.”

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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