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The NFL was what Claypool thought it was going to be. Not that it was easy, by any stretch, but he felt it wasn’t as big a jump as the one from high school to the university ranks. Claypool went from playing in front of 500 fans with Fujimura and the Panthers to more than 100,000 in his first game with the Irish.
Growing up in Canada, and watching U.S. sports like the NFL, NBA and NCAA, Claypool felt that Americans had the physical edge.
“It was like everything was different, everyone was built different. All the people are bigger, faster, stronger than everyone in Canada. That was my perspective,” he said.
However, few can match his size and physical gifts in the NFL, but what really impressed his NFL quarterback was his work rate and ability to limit rookie mistakes.
“He works. He works hard,” Ben Roethlisberger said earlier this season. “He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. I’ve said this numerous times. If he does make a mistake, he won’t make the same one twice, and I think that says a lot about a young guy.”
“Ben, I think his preparation is second to none,” countered Claypool. “He sends me clips of some practices of what I’m doing good and when I’m doing bad, and he comments on what he thinks I should do better or what he thinks I’m doing well, and he does that for all the guys on the team in terms of skill positions — running backs, receivers, tight ends. It takes a lot to do that, and not many people in the league do.”
The Steelers saw in Claypool a player in the mould of Pittsburgh legend Hines Ward; a hard-nosed, ruthless, physical receiver whose impact was felt in many different ways. It was Claypool’s special-teams performance at the Senior Bowl that boosted him to the top of their draft board, a player who showed awareness of all facets of the game.