Clayton keeps the faith
Fort Dodge’s co-captain working hard through injury frustrations
Dayson Clayton exploded back onto the scene last month, ready to put his injury issues behind for good and take Class 4A by storm while reintroducing himself as one of the state’s premier football players.
And then it happened again.
Fort Dodge’s senior tailback hurt his ankle during the Dodgers’ game at Marshalltown on Sept. 18. Clayton has done his best to get back on the field — he gutted his way through the rest of the contest against the Bobcats, then tried to return during Homecoming week on Oct. 2 — but the 220-pound co-captain is the first to admit he’s been a shell of his former self while trying to recover.
Clayton is hoping nearly two full weeks of rest will have him ready to go when FDSH (3-4 overall) returns to the field for a playoff contest at Waterloo West (3-4) on Oct. 23.
“It’s been really hard to just sit and watch from the sidelines or play hurt,” said Clayton, a four-year starter. “There have been moments where I would get really upset because I couldn’t be on the field or contribute like I normally would.
“It’s really frustrating, because I haven’t been able to really show everyone my full potential. But at the end of the day, everything happens for a reason. It’s all part of God’s plan.”
Clayton is the youngest sibling from a family that has given Dodger fans plenty of reasons to cheer for the better part of two decades. His oldest brother, Steven, was a standout basketball player before continuing his career at DMACC. Both Damal and Jontel suited up for the football program, with Jontel breaking every school rushing record on the books as an all-state standout 10 years ago.
“If it wasn’t for my brothers, I wouldn’t be where I am right now,” said Clayton, also a two-year varsity basketball and track performer. “Being around the game of football growing up, having the ability to soak up their knowledge of the game and being able to avoid the mistakes they made (has been) a great thing to have.
“Seeing how successful Jontel was during his (football) career motivates and pushes me to be better then he was. Our household is pretty competitive.”
Dayson needs 196 yards to pass Jontel for second on the Dodgers’ all-time rushing charts, and two more touchdowns to unseat his brother as the runner-up for career scores on the ground. Jontel had 562 carries for 3,522 yards and 34 TDs in his career; Dayson is at 512 for 3,327 and 33.
Dayson would be well clear of those numbers if he had stayed healthy. After rushing for 1,087 yards and 12 touchdowns in garnering third team all-state status as just a sophomore, he was limited to 579 yards on only 93 carries last season, when he originally injured his ankle.
The same problem then surfaced at Marshalltown, when Clayton took a helmet awkwardly to the lower leg. In season-opening victories over Ames and Sioux City East, Clayton had accumulated 679 yards and nine TDs, turning in the No. 1 and 3 single-game school performances ever with 354 and 325 yards.
He’s added only 222 yards and no rushing scores since, missing both the Urbandale and West Des Moines Dowling showdowns altogether.
The plan is to have Clayton back in his old form for the postseason trip to West. The FDSH football program hasn’t won a playoff game since 1994.
“I’m absolutely pumped to get back on the field and show everyone I’m back,” Clayton said. “A Dodger to me is someone who is tough, and when they are facing adversity, they don’t lay down and give up. They push through, no matter what it is.”
The Dodgers have a 20-12 record when Clayton starts over the last four seasons.
Clayton plans on pursuing a career on the gridiron in college, while majoring in something related to sports medicine.
TIMEOUT WITH DAYSON CLAYTON
Vacation destination: Bora Bora.
People you would like to have dinner with: Kobe Bryant, Martin Luther King and Jesus.
It would surprise people that you: don’t only listen to hip hop or rap.
Sports role model: LeBron James.
Everyday role model: My mother.
Can’t go a day without: talking to my mom.
Superstition: listening to the same music playlist on game day.
Most heated rivalry: Mason City.
Favorite road trip: Southeast Polk.
What are you listening to right now? King Von.
Team: LSU Tigers.
Movie: The Blind Side.
Book: All American Boys.
Phone app: Twitter.