Valley's Clemons stays grounded
By Bill Beckner Jr.
Published: Sunday, May 27, 2012, 12:30 a.m.
It's been one month since Toney Clemons joined the Steelers' congregation, a local kid with big dreams primed to make the most of an opportunity with his hometown team.
On April 28, he was introduced to Steeler Nation, a promising young receiver with a wide smile, thoughtful personality and suddenly, one foot in the NFL door.
In a matter of hours that day, he gained more than 1,000 Twitter followers, his cell phone flooded with texts and calls, his popularity spiked.
In the weeks that followed, Clemons signed a contract, attended rookie camp and organized team activities and learned he'll wear No. 11 if he makes the team.
One would think the whirlwind was life-changing for the Valley graduate.
“Not at all,” Clemons said. “I still shop at Family Dollar, go to $5 movies on Tuesdays and use my Sheetz gas card. I went into Finish Line at the (Pittsburgh) Mills the other day and someone asked me why I was shopping at the mall and not at my mansion. My mansion? It's crazy. It doesn't work like that. When you grow up a certain way, you don't change. You don't forget where you came from.
“I am too down to earth to hang out on Cloud 9.”
By all accounts, Clemons, who refers to his team workouts as a 9-to-5 job, was impressive at rookie camp and OTAs, where the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder caught passes and showed his speed.
Still, the seventh-round pick out of Colorado knows nothing is guaranteed and remains humble as he studies the playbook and readies for training camp.
“Nothing has changed,” said Clemons' mother, Tonie. “He never had a car, and now he's borrowing a car from a friend to free up my car to get to practice.
“He is staying (in a North Side apartment) so he doesn't have to commute. He's still broke.”
Clemons' four-year contract is worth $2.149 million, with a $49,824 signing bonus.
His mother said he hasn't received a dime yet, although the bonus is guaranteed.
What's been priceless, Tonie said, is the impact her son has made by simply getting drafted by the Steelers.
“The only change I do see is not so much with Toney but the community and surrounding areas,” she said.
“People from New Kensington, Burrell, Tarentum, all over, are so excited and happy for him. Little kids are concentrating and doing well in school. They have a newfound energy — they see what Toney has gone through, living in the 'hood and the obstacles he's had to overcome. They say, ‘If he can do it, maybe I can, too.' ”
Clemons is aware of his favorable impact.
“It makes me feel amazing to know that I am a walking, talking, breathing example,” he said. “Kids can relate to the struggle. These are kids who came from the same neighborhoods and streets and are playing football in the same public housing yards that I did growing up.”
Kiski Area and Pitt grad Scott McKillop was selected in the 2009 draft by the San Francisco 49ers. A linebacker, McKillop is now trying to build a career with the Buffalo Bills.
McKillop has been through the rookie process and knows how difficult it can be.
“If I was to give him any advice football-wise, it would be to do everything you possibly can to help the team out, no matter what it is,” McKillop said.
“Financially, I would tell him to not be afraid to say no to anyone and keep his surrounding friends and family small. And seeing as he was a late-round draft pick like myself, I would tell him to be ready to work his butt off on special teams.”
Veteran players seem to have taken a liking to Clemons.
“You watch guys like Troy (Polamalu), James Farrior and Antonio (Brown) work, and you learn pretty quickly that there are no off days,” Clemons said. “There's a whole mentality you have to have. The vet QBs, Ben (Roethlisberger), Charlie Batch, Byron (Leftwich) are always quick to show you what you could have done better or what you can improve on. (Jerricho) Cotchery taught me you can never catch enough passes in practice or after practice.
“You can never be too polished. You never arrive at this level.”
Clemons said he hasn't been pushed around. His teammates have welcomed him.
“It's not like that,” Clemons said. “You can't single guys out. You're a Steeler. They don't care what year you are.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-224-2696 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rice cornerback among 3 draft prospects to visit Steelers
- Despite many moves, Steelers’ depth still a work in progress
- Steelers get familiar exhibition opponents
- Steelers notebook: Today’s game creates tweaks to 3-4 defense
- Rooney: No further punishment related to Tomlin sideline incident
- Sportsmanship on table at NFL meetings
- Steelers open toward new contract with Roethlisberger
- Steelers adopt variable ticket-pricing policy
- NFL, players union turn attention to respect, conduct in workplace
- 3 more college players visit Steelers ahead of NFL Draft