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LOGAN -- On Aug. 8, Aggies safety Walter McClenton’s life was changed forever with the birth of his son. His arrival changed McClenton’s outlook on life and keeps him going.
“He’s my heart,” McClenton said of his son, Zahkai. “He is what drives and motivates me every day.”
Right now, that drive is focused on helping the Aggies win not only the Western Athletic Conference title, but they expect to go to and win a bowl game in the postseason.
“From the win-loss column, it doesn’t look like things are going as good from the outside, but here in the inside it’s a different feeling,” McClenton said. “This is our time. We believe that we will win the WAC and go to a bowl game. And win there also.”
If you look solely at the win-loss record, this season hasn’t been as successful as everyone hoped it would be. However, there has been a significant change in the quality and attitude of the team over the last three years. Keeping that attitude positive is going to be the key in achieving these goals.
“We can do this,” McClenton said. “We want two rings on our hands when we leave here.”
In his most recent two years at Utah State, McClenton has seen a lot of playing time. In 2009, he saw action in all 12 games. Last year, he played in 11 games, starting 10 of them.
“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to just never give up and keep fighting,” McClenton said. “With being in and out of the starting lineup and struggling with school, you just have to keep going.”
McClenton credits a lot of that attitude to the coaching staff and their constant motivation.
“Coach (Gary) Andersen and his staff teach us the same things, to not give up on a play or on the game,” McClenton said. “You take that to the outside life also. Just keep striving for whatever you want and don’t give up.”
That mentality wasn’t always a part of the Utah State football program. Many of the current players who were here under former coach Brent Guy talk easily about the differences and the change for good since Andersen and his staff arrived on campus.
“At first, you don’t want a coaching change because those are the guys who brought you into the program. But Coach Andersen came in and brought in a whole completely new atmosphere,” McClenton said. “It wasn’t a slow adjustment, it was really quick, and it was really good.”
The team and the Cache Valley community have shown their support for Andersen and say they are glad to see him as a part of the program. They say that Aggie football is a completely different program than it has been in the past and that it plays a huge part in garnering the support and dedication of Cache Valley.
“He’s a player’s coach and everyone loves him,” McClenton said. “Everyone, not just the team, rallies around him and the way he’s changed this program in the time he’s been here.”
McClenton, from Arlington, Texas, graduated from high school in 2006. However, a preseason injury kept him home until January 2007. He stayed home in Texas, working and getting in shape to start his successful career here.
“It’s been a journey since I’ve been here with the ups and downs of football and with the coaching changes,” McClenton said.
That journey has been a good one for McClenton, who is now seen as a veteran and a leader on the team. His experience and attitude help the other players and motivate them to do their best to succeed.
“Everybody knows I’m a guy who’s strong in what I stand for. If I say I feel like we can win a game, I really believe it. I speak the honest truth. I’m there for the guys,” McClenton said. “I’ve been through the ins and outs of this program from the bad to the good. They see me as a fighter.”
He plans to try out for the NFL, but “that’s not forever,” he said. He is graduating in exercise science and thinks he’ll end up back in school, with potential plans to become a physical therapist.
Right now though, he says the focus is on this season and giving it everything he has.
“I just want to bust my tail every play. I want to be the best safety in the WAC,” McClenton said. “We want to do good things and push the program forward.”
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University.