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Lane Clelland moves from offense to defense to special teams

Laura Coletti | Thursday, November 17, 2011

Offensive tackle Lane Clelland’s experience at Notre Dame has been all about learning, adapting and growing.

But the learning began far before arriving on campus in 2008. Clelland began playing football at the young age of five years old, and grew up with the perfect teacher living in the same household: his older brother, Lance.

Lance Clelland graduated from Northwestern in 2001 and was a four-year starter on the offensive line that won a Big Ten championship in 2000. After graduating, he went home to Maryland to coach his younger brother at the McDonogh School.

“I grew up watching [Lance],” Clelland said. “I come from a blue-collar family and growing up I was just always around football. [Lance] really taught me a lot of stuff.”

A dual-sport athlete at McDonogh, Clelland was also a talented wrestler and his time spent wrestling contributed significantly to his football ability.

“Wrestling practice is some of the hardest work out there,” he said. “It’s good because it gives you a strong work ethic. Also, a lot of the control you need for your upper body as a wrestler is a huge factor in offensive and defensive line play, so I really think [wrestling] helped a lot.”

Under the tutelage of his brother and the added benefit of an off-season sport, Clelland was heavily recruited by schools such as Nebraska, Alabama, Michigan and Boston College, but committed to Notre Dame during the spring of his junior year. After playing both offense and defense in high school, Clelland first took the field as an offensive tackle in 2009 after redshirting his freshman season. Since then, he’s taken on a variety of roles for the Irish.

“I played a little bit of defense in the spring of 2010 when Coach Kelly [was hired],” he said. “I’d been moving pretty well and they just wanted to give me a shot. I really liked defense, it was a lot of fun.”

Clelland has also spent time on a variety of special teams units. Despite being moved around so much, Clelland’s favorite spot is still on offense.

“Defense was a good time, but I’m kind of an offensive lineman at heart,” he said. “It’s what I was brought up to do. It’s been kind of engrained in me from the start.”

This year, Clelland has adapted to yet another role. Since tearing his ACL over the summer, he’s been sidelined for the year and has learned to be a supportive teammate.

“I’ve been cheering guys on and motivating the younger guys,” he said. “If I see them in practice doing something that I can help them out with, a technique here or there, I try to help them out.”

While this role is frustrating at times, Clelland has taken it in stride.

“In general, I think it’s just about being more supportive for the team,” he said. “It stinks not to be able to play when you have been for just about your whole life. It’s all about how you handle it though.”

While there are many possibilities regarding the future of his athletic career, Clelland’s experiences as a student-athlete at Notre Dame are some that will stay with him for the rest of his life.

“[Being an athlete here] is going to impact [the rest of my life] a lot because I feel like when you’re a student-athlete at Notre Dame, it’s essentially taking on a full-time job,” Clelland said. “You’ve got however many hours of work a week, with preparation for everything. Preparation that goes into a game, preparation that goes into the summers, into the spring. I mean, it’s a full-time job and that’s on top of our school work that we have.”

Clelland said he appreciates the value of a challenging Notre Dame education.

“It’s going to help. Time management is the biggest thing to learn, and I’ve definitely gotten a good grasp on it,” he said. “I understand how I am with time management and what I have to do and where I need to put focus on at certain times.”

A double major in English and Computer Applications, Clelland hopes to go into business after graduating.

“English majors get the stereotype that they’re going into law,” he said. “I’m trying to go into business to see what I can do. I feel like I’ll bring a different perspective to things.”

Whether the future holds another year of blocking defenders on the offensive line or trying to make it as a businessman, the same skill set will be essential and will be what Clellend’s done all along: learn, adapt and grow.