Sept. 5, 2007
By Teddy Newton, MSU Sports Information Student Assistant
For a college football player to truly excel at one position it takes a multitude of talent and commitment. Having said that, one can only imagine what it takes for a player to be versatile enough to play three positions.
One such player for Michigan State is senior offensive lineman Pete Clifford. Since arriving in East Lansing, Clifford has found himself at both the tackle and guard spot for multiple games. As a freshman, he lined up at right guard, then switched to left guard as a sophomore. Last season, he started four games at left tackle and three at left guard.
The constant shifting of positions has helped Clifford become a better all-around offensive lineman and a tougher match-up for defensive lineman.
"It keeps me in tuned to what's going on," Clifford said, who enters the season as the starting left tackle. "It helps me at tackle because I know what the guy next to me at guard is supposed to be doing, and the same goes when I'm playing guard.
"When you're playing guard you're going up against guys that are usually 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds," he added. "Then you've got the outside rushers when you're playing tackle that are a lot faster."
That willingness to change positions shows that Clifford is willing to do whatever it takes for Michigan State to be successful, and that attitude is a big reason why he was recently elected as a team captain along with Jehuu Caulcrick, Travis Key and Kaleb Thornhill.
"It was a great honor to be voted captain by my teammates and the coaches," Clifford said. "I learned from Kyle Cook, who is one of my best friends and who was a captain last year, to lead by example."
Clifford's position coach, Michigan State offensive line coach Dan Roushar, said that Clifford has the characteristics coaches look for in their leaders.
"He's what you want your seniors to be," Roushar said. "He's been an incredible worker, very coachable, and the success of the football team is very important to him. You can see that in everything that he does."
Even though Clifford's hometown, Salem, N.H., isn't exactly a major talent pipeline for the Spartans, he said it only took one visit for him to pick Michigan State as his college destination.
"All of the other places I visited were all right but as soon as I came here I just felt like I fit in with the guys," Clifford said. "Someone once told me it would just feel right when you found that one place and I was out here the next week after that visit. There weren't even any students on campus when I visited but the atmosphere and the guys were great."
Coming from an area of the country not known for producing Big Ten football players, Clifford took a slightly different route to one of college football's elite conferences.
"Coming out of high school I wasn't getting many offers so I did some post-grad work at a prep school (Bridgton Academy) up in Maine," said Clifford. "After half of a year there I started to get some offers. Then I got a call from Coach (Jeff) Stoutland (former offensive line coach) and he said there was a scholarship here for me."
While the current Michigan State staff is different from the one that brought Clifford to East Lansing, the new offensive system they have implemented has grown on him.
Clifford said that Michigan State's new offensive style has allowed him and the rest of the offensive lineman to be more aggressive off the ball and play smash-mouth football.
"Now the defenses are going to be caught off-guard because we're going to be running the ball a lot more," Clifford said. "I like that because now we can come out low and fire out at people. Our mindset as an offensive line is to come out and run the ball and I like that a lot."
Since coming to Michigan State from New England, Clifford has played multiple positions and has been a part of two very different offensive systems. The one thing that has been a constant though is Clifford's burning desire to excel and help his team win. That's something that has always served him well, no matter what position he's lined up at for the Spartans.
Feature originally published in Spartan Sports Zone Magazine vs. UAB