Many Happy Returns, Chad Clifton

While it is true that Chad Clifton was pretty fortunate in spending his college and professional career protecting the blind side for quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers (not to mention Tee Martin for Tennessee’s national championship season of 1998). The converse is also true. Those top signal callers were lucky to have the ox-strong and ever-diligent 6’5” 330-pound Clifton watching their backs.

Drafted in the second round by Green Bay in 2000, Clifton was the team’s starter at left tackle for a dozen years, with some time missed for injuries and 17 surgeries. The most notorious injury occurred in 2002 when defensive tackle Warren Sapp blind-sided Clifton during an interception return with a cheap shot that dislocated Clifton’s pelvis. Clifton did not dispute the hit, but did call attention to the fact that blowhard Sapp didn’t bother coming to visit Clifton during the four days he was laid up in a Tampa hospital.

After missing the last six games of 2002, Clifton came back from that career-threatening injury to allow just 1.5 sacks in 2003 despite playing against the toughest pass rushers in the league every week. Clifton was a very good run blocker, but he truly excelled at pass protection. Friend and teammate Mark Tauscher told the Journal Sentinel, “He had the quickest get-off I’ve ever seen. He’s such a great athlete. He got in his position before the defensive guy got in his. He always got off the snap with surprising quickness.” Tauscher added, “I don’t know if you can [overstate] the impact he had and the sacrifice he made. Even with all the injuries he had, he always showed up.”

He made the Pro Bowl for a second time in the championship season of 2010 and also was named one of the NFL’s 100 best players that offseason by NFL Network. He is second only to Forrest Gregg in terms of games played at tackle amongst Packers and is second only to Gregg in quality as well.

(Adapted from Green Bay Gold)

2010cclifton

Custom card in 1960 Topps style.

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