Chase Claypool was a big kid in a small market before he started putting his high school highlight reel up online, a course of action he said that he took largely for the opportunity to share to friends and family. But it ultimately led to visits with some American colleges, including Notre Dame, where he would spend the past four seasons.
Not that it was a cakewalk from there. As a rookie, he only played in eight games, recording more tackles on special teams than he did receptions (eight to five). He would play in 11 as a sophomore and bump his production up to 29 receptions, getting into the end zone for the first time.
It wasn’t until his junior year that he was a starter, which saw him catch 50 passes for 639 yards and four touchdowns. Then, in his senior year during the 2019 season, he went off, catching 66 passes for 1037 yards and 13 touchdowns, which was top-10 in the nation.
How did he continue to get better year after year? That was what one reporter asked him yesterday during his conference call with the media soon after the Pittsburgh Steelers made him their second-round pick. He had a simple enough explanation for it.
“I think a big part of that was confidence”, he said. “Just being put in that situation, and then making those plays and knowing you can make those plays, it’s so much easier to make that play again and again. That’s something that just came with how we work in practice and all that, and I think once I acquired that confidence”, he added, it allowed his play to blossom.
Basically, the more he played, and the more he succeeded, the more comfortable he was in that role and in himself, and in his belief that he was capable of doing that. Still 21 years old (he turns 22 in July), Claypool still has a lot of room to grow—professionally, though not physically.
The 6’4”, 229-pound specimen was tossed around by draftniks as a possible tight end conversion. While he has an aptitude for blocking, however, it is in the capacity of a wide receiver, where he should be an asset, and the Steelers have been clear that that is where he will play, primarily on the outside but with some slot versatility.
The introduction of Claypool to the roster makes for a wide receiver room that is becoming crowded, joining JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Diontae Johnson at the top of the depth chart, each of whom, consecutively, were drafted between 60 and 66 between the 2017 and 2019 NFL Drafts.
Coming off a breakout season in his final collegiate campaign, the Notre Dame product is bursting with confidence and ready to take on the next challenge: the NFL.