Ahwatukee-native and Tempe High quarterback Nathan Clayton made history Nov. 21 when he became the first Buffaloes player selected to the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl.
“I didn’t realize that until today,” Clayton said of being the first. “I wouldn’t be in the spot I am without my team. Even though I was the one that got selected, it represents all of Tempe High.”
Clayton will play on the West team coached by former NFL cornerback Mark McMillian. Clayton participated in regional combines. His performance led him to become one of three quarterbacks on McMillian’s team.
The Blue-Grey All-American Bowl is Dec. 17 at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. Kickoff is 5 p.m. The game will be televised live on Impact Football Network.
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound senior helped the Buffaloes to a 7-3 record in the 4A conference, although the team missed the playoffs.
On a team with two 1,000-yard rushers, Clayton’s statistics were not eye-popping. He completed 64 of 140 attempts (45.7 percent) for 822 yards. He had five touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Clayton found success as a game manager and went to the air in situations when the Buffaloes were in dire need of a big play.
“Big players make big plays in big games,” Clayton said. “Even though I didn’t throw as much this season, I still showed my ability to step up and do whatever my coaches asked me to do in any situation.”
Clayton – who is known as “Big Red” among teammates and peers – has participated in several football camps at Ivy League schools, and visited Mountain West Conference schools, such as Wyoming and Colorado State. He awaits his first solid offer.
He eschewed prep football powers close to his home – Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista – and enrolled at Tempe High. His leadership qualities on and off the field will be missed, according to Buffaloes coach Brian Walker.
“He meant a lot to this team,” Walker said. “We were a team that passed a lot up until this year. It speaks a lot of Nate because other quarterbacks would get frustrated with not passing the ball as much. Not once did he waiver. He stayed the same throughout the entire process.
“He’s just a great young man.”
Clayton and his family are holding a fundraiser to pay for expenses related to his travel and game expenses in Dallas.
On Monday, Dec. 3, 20 percent of all dine-in and carry-out orders at Zesty Zzeeks Pizza & Wings in Ahwatukee will go toward Clayton’s expenses. A silent auction will be held for a VIP experience with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Clayton is excited to represent his team and his school on a national stage against some of the best athletes in the 2019 class. However, as the game grows near, he admits the nerves are starting to set in.
“I’ve never been to AT&T Stadium but I know it’s big,” Clayton said. “I hope we get to practice first in it because walking in, I don’t know what to expect. My nerves are starting to kick in but I feel like they will kick in completely when we get there.”