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30 Greatest Tigers of the Decade: #14 Michael Clayton

#14 Michael Clayton
#14 Michael Clayton

Lost in how great the 2003 defense was this simple fact: the offense could score seemingly at will.  And one of the big reasons for that was Michael Clayton, one of the most prolific wide receivers in LSU history.  He is near the top of the LSU record book in almost all receiving categories: #2 in receptions with 182 (to Wendell Davis), #2 in yards with 2,582 (to Josh Reed), and #2 in touchdowns with 21 (to Dwayne Bowe).  Clayton may have been the most complete wide receiver in LSU history.

He made an immediate impact in his freshman year in 2001 as the second option with Reed.  The two combined for over 200 yards per game.  He caught 47 balls for 754 yards and 7 TD, the seven TD's were the most by a Tiger freshman since Dalton Hilliard.  Heck, he even made seven tackles on special teams.  So he was just a product of being the #2 guy to Josh Reed?

Nope.  Clayton answered any lingering doubts to his own greatness in his sophomore year.  He caught 57 balls for 749 yards and 5 TD.  He also blossomed into LSU's "clutch" receiver, as he has 21 third down catches which resulted in a first down or a touchdown.  He continued his All Everything role, making 11 special tackles and even playing both ways in the Cotton Bowl.  He caught 6 balls for 88 yards in the Cotton Bowl, and made three tackles as the team's free safety.  So if you want a good bar bet, stump your friends with the question of "who was LSU's last 60-minute man in football?"  The answer: Michael Clayton. 

He led the SEC in both receptions and yards in his junior year with 78 and 1,079 respectively.  His 10 TD's ranked second among receivers.  His 1000 yard season was only the fifth in LSU history (Martin 1983, Davis 1986, Reed 2000 and 2001), as he established himself as one of the all-time great LSU receivers.  He made another 14 special teams tackles, giving him 35 career tackles.  Not bad for a wide receiver.  He was the best offensive player on the 2003 National Champions, and an All-American, and he was a significant contributor on the 2001 SEC Champions. 

The greatest thing about Clayton isn't just that he is near the top of the LSU record book, though he is.  It's not even his staggering consistency, as he's the only LSU receiver with three straight 700-yard seasons and he caught a ball in every one of the 40 games he appeared in.  It's his toughness.  When you think wide receivers, you tend to think of spoiled divas.  Michael Clayton was a receiver who took just as much pride in blocking downfield as he did in making a big catch.  It is an ethic that has passed down from each LSU star receiver through the decade.  If you don't block, you don't play.  And that's because of Clayton, who was a better blocker, and receiver, than just about all of ‘em.