Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Michael Clayton loves catching passes from Brian Griese and Chris Simms, but he can’t help lobbying for the team to draft another quarterback in the 2005 NFL Draft.
But not just any quarterback. There is a certain quarterback that the Bucs’ number one wide receiver wouldn’t mind seeing Tampa Bay use one of its eight second-day picks on.
Louisville signal caller Stefan LeFors.
LeFors was Clayton’s teammate at Christian Life Academy High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the two are still close friends to this day.
“Stefan was my high school quarterback,” Clayton said. “Stefan was a guy of his own breed. He was the anchor leg on the track team. He was the starting quarterback on the football team. He is just an awesome guy. He was one of the white guys who hung out with us. We all just hung out together. He’s a great guy all the way around. He’s a great character guy with a good spirit. He’s a good Christian guy all the way around. Everything about him was just A-plus.”
LeFors and Clayton led CLA to four straight 2A playoff appearances with Clayton on the receiving end of many of LeFors’ 2,100 passing yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior in 1999.
While Clayton stayed home and went to LSU, LeFors went to Louisville where he helped turn the Cardinals into a top 25 team under coaches John L. Smith and Bobby Petrino. As a senior in college, LeFors completed a school-record 73.5 percent of his passes (219 of 357) and came close to breaking Tim Couch’s NCAA accuracy record. LeFors threw 20 touchdowns and just three interceptions in 2004 and compiled a passer efficiency rating of 181.7, which ranks second in NCAA history behind the 183.3 mark of Tulane’s Shaun King in 1998.
“I’m not at all surprised by the success he’s had,” Clayton said. “When you go back and look at the guys that competed with me, he’s on my level. In high school, you just knew you were going to get an A-plus game out of him. You were going to see him take one 50 yards to the house, or one for 70. Once he got loose, there was no one that was going to catch him. For him to make it this far and have the success he’s had at Louisville is no surprise to me.”
Despite’s LeFors’ intelligence, competitiveness and accuracy, there are knocks on his arm strength and height as he is just over 6-feet tall and weighs only 208 pounds. But LeFors counters any questions about his arm or size with speed, as he is one of the fastest quarterbacks in the draft, clocking a 4.59 at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. At Louisville, he scrambled for 333 yards and three rushing scores in 2004. In high school, LeFors was part of his team’s 4×100 relay team that captured the state title twice.
While most draft pundits have LeFors pegged as a fourth- or fifth-round pick, an outstanding performance in the East-West Shrine Game in which he threw three touchdowns may have elevated his stock.
One thing that scouts find extremely appealing about LeFors is his maturity and leadership qualities. He is the only member of his family that can hear. LeFors learned sign language at the same time he learned to speak English so that he could communicate with his deaf mother, father and brother. Those silent communication skills have served him well on the gridiron as far as being able to audiblize and communicate to receivers with hand signals.
LeFors also got married in college, although he has not experienced fatherhood yet.
“I’ll tell you one thing about him that keeps him sane is the fact that he got married,” Clayton said. “He’s level-headed and he’s married to a wonderful lady. She was his high school sweetheart. I know she keeps him on track. Hat’s off to him. He’s one guy in high school that I said, ‘I’ll be like that guy one day.'”
While the Bucs are rumored to be interested in drafting a quarterback this weekend, LeFors gets mixed reviews at One Buccaneer Place. While his mobility and accuracy are a fit for Jon Gruden’s West Coast offense, the fact that he is a left-hander may be a turnoff as the team has had some issues with Simms being a lefty, while Griese is a right-handed quarterback. LeFors’ lack of ideal height may be an issue as Gruden prefers his quarterbacks to be at least 6-foot-2, although LeFors does remind him of Ty Detmer, whom he had success with in Philadelphia back in the 1990s.
Clayton has already helped the Bucs do some scouting this year by working the sidelines of the South squad at the Senior Bowl and talking with potential teammates, and by attending Mike Williams’ pro day workout at the campus of the University of South Florida to evaluate him. Now he is putting in a good word for his former high school teammate.
“I would do anything for that guy to get him here,” Clayton said. “I just want him to get the opportunity. When I left college early, all I wanted was the opportunity. I know that I am blessed. I know that I am talented. I know that I’ll compete until I die. He’s the same type of guy. We had the same high school coach. He coached us well and brought us along real well and gave us the right mental attitude of how to play football. If given the opportunity to play here or anywhere in the league, that guy is going to come out on top.” uccaneers merchandise in the world.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org