‘I Definitely Had To Fight That Demon’
LARAMIE -- From Gannett Peak to Hell's Half Acre.
That's one way to describe that memorable seven-day span in mid-November.
One Saturday you're hoisting the Bronze Boot over your head after tossing a perfectly-placed 32-yard touchdown strike to knock off your most-hated rival, the next you sit in stunned silence after throwing away a golden opportunity to take down the conference bully and vault to the top of the standings.
Football can be a cruel game. No one has felt that swing of emotion more so than Wyoming quarterback Jayden Clemons.
It's been five months since that fateful, frigid night inside War Memorial Stadium. That's 153 days of second guessing, overthinking and pain. Lots of pain.
Clemons was responsible for two touchdowns in his first-career start a week prior at Colorado State. He was efficient. He made plays when it mattered most. It was the polar opposite when Boise State came to town a week later, starting with a misfire to a wide open Joshua Cobbs on the opening drive of the night.
That was likely to be a 74-yard scoring strike. Instead, it wasn't meant to be.
Clemons connected on just 3-of-16 attempts. He also completed three passes to the Broncos, including an unimaginable heave into the back of the end zone in the dying seconds that landed in the waiting arms of safety JL Skinner.
"It took a lot, to be honest with you," the junior said. "It was one of the highest highs to the lowest lows ... I feel like I put a lot of weight on myself and my shoulders to continue to play well and help lead us to a victory. The game played out how it did. After the fact, yeah, it definitely took a toll on me mentally."
Yes, he heard the fans. Opinions. So, so many opinions. Clemons understands that aspect of the game. He read your love letters after the Border War, too.
No one is harder on the Utah product than that guy staring back at him in the mirror.
"No one prepares you for that. No one teaches you about that. No one talks to you about how to deal with anything like that," he said, referring to the mental ramifications that followed that 20-17 heartbreaker. "... I learned how to deal with things, how to learn, how to grow and change and evolve as a person and as a football player -- as a quarterback -- from that."
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At first, you might cringe. But hear Clemons out.
"Selfishly, I needed that game, unknowingly, to make me more mature, make me grow up, make me learn some more things, see more sides of things, grow and develop," he added. "I'm really grateful for that ... I was in that situation, I was on the field, I was one playing and I was willing to carry the weight of that loss and everything else that came with it. I needed that."
After that setback, Clemons stood behind the podium, tears in his eyes, and faced the media. He didn't have to, he wanted to. He rapidly tapped the dais as he began to describe his feelings. He didn't quite yet know how to process the situation. Audible sniffles were more prevalent than words.
"I feel like I have to do more for my team," he said. "They trusted me."
They still do.
Clemons said his teammates gave him assurance that night. One by one, they stopped at his locker stall. Hugs, handshakes and heart. He said that was the epitome of that roster a season ago.
They had his back.
"It was a very cool team to be a part of," Clemons added.
That performance. That throw. It weighed on his mind daily for more than a month, he admitted. What could he have done differently? Why didn't he make that additional read? How can he be better?
Clemons is still answering those questions. That's the growth he's seeking.
"I definitely had to fight that demon, in a way, not letting it affect where my feet currently are," he said. "There were times in practice and something happened, and then those thoughts would trigger, creeping in, which you have no control over. All you have control over is how you respond.
"Do you let it sit or do you move on from it?"
University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players
- University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players