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WSN15: Football Top Players #3 - John Clay, Racine Park

01/03/2018, 11:30am CST
By Travis Wilson

The WSN15 series will celebrate the 15th Anniversary of by looking back at the top players, teams, and moments of the past 15 years (2003-2017).

The Top 15 Players countdown is not a recruiting ranking and not indicative of what the players did after high school. It is a ranking of the top high school players, the impact they had for their team, and the dominance they displayed while in high school.

Top 15 Players: #3 - John Clay, Racine Park

John Clay was a legend before the internet age, but it's hard to imagine the the hashtags and video highlights he would have produced. 

His emergence on the state scene began in the 2005 state finals, when he led the Panthers to a Division 1 championship with a new D1 state finals record 259 yards with three touchdowns on just 19 carries.

He would finish his junior season rushing for 2,032 yards and 30 touchdowns on 162 carries, and the awards and attention flooded in. He was a First Team All-State choice by both the AP and the WFCA, and named the EA Sports National Junior Player of the Year.

Despite battling injuries much of his senior year, Clay managed to rush for 1,485 yards and 15 touchdowns on 170 carries as Park once again qualified for the postseason. He was a WFCA and AP First Team All-State choice again, earning WFCA Player of the Year recognition. For his career he totaled 5,005 yards and 58 touchdowns on 509 carries. 

Clay was selected to participate in the U.S. Army All-American game following his senior year, and was ranked among the top players in the country by all the major scouting services. He was ranked as the #4 running back by and the 36th player overall.

A fierce recruiting battle took place for his services, with many of the country's top programs offering scholarships. Ultimately, he chose the University of Wisconsin over offers from Ohio State, Iowa, Nebraska, Tennessee, and numerous others.

After sitting out the 2007 season, Clay made an immediate impact in 2008, rushing for 884 yards and 9 touchdowns on 155 carries as a backup to P.J. Hill. After Hill left early for the NFL Draft, Clay took over the starting running back duties as a sophomore, and took over he did.

Despite starting just 8 games, Clay rushed for 1517 yards and 18 touchdowns as he was named First Team All-Conference by both the media and coaches, and was selected as the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. He received honorable mention All-American honors and was the MVP of the Badgers' Champ Sports Bowl win over Miami.

Injuries would once again creep up for Clay, who missed several games as a junior in 2010 due to ankle problems. Still, he rushed for 1012 yards and 14 touchdowns as the Badgers shared the Big Ten title and played in the 2011 Rose Bowl.

He was a finalist for the Doak Walker Award and received Second Team All-Big Ten honors, as well as Third Team All-American honors from the AP.

A few days after the Rose Bowl, Clay announced he would forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the NFL Draft. After going undrafted in 2011, he would spend time on the Steelers' practice squad and active roster before being released in 2012.

For the latest and most up to date football news and recruiting information, follow Travis on Twitter @travisWSN. Email story ideas, recruiting info, etc. to Travis at travis(at)

Tag(s): News Archive  News  Travis Wilson  WSN15