Sean Clifford “confident” heading into year six with Penn State football
INDIANAPOLIS — Sean Clifford is entering year six of his college football career, but very few questions during the Big Ten media days were about his play on the field.
Clifford created his own NIL agency in April called Limitless, and since its inception, he's signed 25 athletes.
Now the Nittany Lions signal-caller is fighting a different battle and trying to get revenue sharing and other benefits for athletes.
Clifford has had conversations with Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren, among others, regarding this issue.
“Do I want to make a change for college athletics and college athletes across the country? Absolutely,” Clifford said. “That's one of the things that I set out to do this offseason. And I still believe that.”
While running his business and fighting for expanded rights for collegiate athletes, Clifford's focus is on the gridiron, where he’s expected to be the blue and white’s starting quarterback for the fourth straight season.
Despite his name being in the news for the past several months for everything but football, he’s excited to put the pads back on and compete with his teammates.
“We’re five days away from camp,” Clifford said, “and that’s the main thing right now.”
Clifford came to Happy Valley in 2017, and after watching Trace McSorely dominate for two seasons, it became his turn to start in 2019.
In his first season as a starter, the Cincinnati, Ohio, native threw for 2,654 yards and 23 touchdowns while leading the Nittany Lions to a Cotton Bowl victory.
However, Clifford and the blue and white have fallen on hard times over the past two seasons, with an 11-11 record during that span.
For Clifford, his redshirt junior and senior campaigns didn’t go the way he wanted them to, getting benched and injured.
In those two years, he threw for 4,795 yards, 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, causing many fans to want players such as Drew Allar or Christian Veilleux to start this season.
Despite fans bashing his consistency and play on the gridiron, few can attest to his leadership on and off the football field.
“I’m there for every student-athlete that comes in contact with me because I want to make sure that I'm there for them,” Clifford said. “The same way great leaders were there for me early, Trace McSorley being one of them. The greats of Saquon Barkley, Mike Gesicki, Chris Godwin.”
While Clifford has the leadership qualities of the aforementioned Penn State greats, his play on the field hasn’t lived up to the caliber of those four.
Clifford was one of the most highly touted quarterbacks in his class, and many fans expected him to be the elite successor to McSorely, but that hasn’t been the case.
Now with his ventures off the field taking center stage, many are wondering how he’s going to balance running a company with being the starting quarterback at a program with extremely high expectations.
“I have a lot outside of football that I like to do, but football is number one, and it’ll always be number one until I stop playing,'' Clifford said. “But it's a blessing that with the landscape of college football and being able to be a part of NIL and just this new world, to be able to show guys that there's more than just football and you can do other things.”
With this season being his last in college football, his focus is to win games and be the best player and teammate he can be.
Clifford’s goal remains to have a long NFL career, either as a player or something completely different.
“I feel like Penn State and Coach [James] Franklin and all the administrators have set me up to be able to explore whatever is past football,” Clifford said. “After this year, 15 years down the line, I'm competing with Tom Brady for the longest NFL legacy — I still want to do that.”
While Clifford has branched out tremendously during his time in Happy Valley, his focus remains on his team and getting better.
As for the current day and playing football, Clifford is taking what he’s learned in his tenure with Franklin to keep his goals small.
“Everybody's goal is to make the league, but my main goal right now is fighting, crawling for every inch we can get,” Clifford said. “That 1-0, six-second mentality through camp.”
Clifford is also excited to play in the same offensive system for another season under offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, as it's the first time he’s had the same offensive coordinator for consecutive seasons.
Building chemistry with Yurcich, paired with his over 30 contests played as a starter, has allowed Clifford to exude confidence.
“We got a confident crew,” Clifford said. “We got a lot of guys that put in a lot of work. And preparation leads to execution, and execution leads to being 1-0.”
Alex Rocco is a rising junior majoring broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Contributors
Second-Year / Broadcast Journalism