Our story begins in Abbotsford, a city in British Columbia that holds a population of just over 140,000. It is a city known for its farm country, its airshow and its tulip festival. It is not known for its NFL pipelines, though it was here in Abbotsford that the newest member of the Pittsburgh Steelers saw his football career begin. While Pittsburgh may be the newest destination in Chase Claypool’s journey, Abbotsford has always been his home.
It was here where the Canadian prospect emerged as one of the country’s most talked about players. Playing for the Abbotsford Collegiate Panthers, Claypool set numerous school records. Most touchdowns in a season, most receiving yards in a season, most receptions in a season, the list goes on and on. Setting the country ablaze, the 6’4 Canadian receiver then caught the eye of the NCAA.
Rutgers, Michigan, Oregon and Notre Dame all came calling but in July 2015, Claypool made his decision to commit to The Fighting Irish. Jumping from high school football to the NCAA can be a challenging obstacle for any player but making the transition from Canadian high school football to the NCAA can be like entering foreign territory. Luckily, Claypool had great resources provided for him as he joined Notre Dame.
“It could be a culture shock but Notre Dame put the resources forth for me to adjust pretty quickly,” Claypool told me during January’s Senior Bowl week.
Claypool continued to make strides each season with The Fighting Irish and it culminated with a terrific senior season. During his final season at Notre Dame, Claypool recorded over 1000 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. His year would earn him a trip to the Senior Bowl and it was here where the seeds were planted for his journey to Pittsburgh.
A meeting with Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin occurred at the Senior Bowl as the impressive combination of size and speed must have been enough to warrant the coach’s attention. Now a few months later, that seed has begun sprouting as the Steelers have chosen the former Notre Dame receiver with their first selection of the 2020 Draft.
Now, all that is left is for Claypool to develop into the receiver that his athletic profile tends to foreshadow. His selection gives the Steelers and a returning Ben Roethlisberger a speedy and massive receiver to work with. Though for Claypool, he has more than just a chance to turn himself into a household name in Pittsburgh, he has the chance to represent an entire nation.
“Not a lot of us (Canadians) get the opportunity, even though people have the talent so I’m pretty fortunate to be here,” Claypool said during the Senior Bowl’s media day.
For a Canadian, making the NFL is a prestigious honor on its own but being the first selection of one of the most prestigious franchises in NFL history is almost unheard of. Claypool’s dream may have started in his hometown of Abbotsford but he will have every chance to make that dream blossom during his time in Pittsburgh.