On Thursday night, Fort Worth Trimble Tech High School honored former football standout Raymond Clayborn by retiring his No. 49 jersey at halftime of the school's game against Fort Worth Wyatt. The former University of Texas star and NFL cornerback, whose 15-year career included 36 interceptions and three Pro Bowl selections, sat down for an interview Thursday.
You are the first Trimble Tech football player to have your jersey retired. What does that mean to you? It's a terrific honor. I get tingles just thinking about being the first one. It truly is an honor and I'm very proud to represent the school in that way.
Did you dream of playing in the NFL as a young boy growing up in Fort Worth? I had those aspirations. I would tell anybody who would listen that that's what I was going to do. I had a lot of help along the way, though. All of my coaches put me in line when I got out of line.
What is your earliest football memory? When I was growing up I was a huge Dallas Cowboys fan. When I was 11 or 12 years old I would ride a bus for 75 cents over to the Cotton Bowl and get in for a dollar. We'd sit in the end zone and watch Dandy Don and Bullet Bob Hayes and I would literally cry when they would lose.
When did you start playing football? In junior high I remember being there looking at all the pads. I was in the seventh grade and I was thinking, you know, I can play football so I got my pads and I remember walking back to school the next day with all my stuff and some big guy walked up to me and stole all my equipment. When I told the coach what had happened he told me all the pads had been given out and I'd have to buy my own. My mom couldn't afford any equipment, so I didn't get to play. I didn't even go out for football in eighth grade because I was so disappointed with my previous experience.
The real start to my football career wasn't until I got to Trimble Tech. When I started I was a complete unknown and they stuck me at tight end. My big break came in one of our first games, when the quarterback threw the ball downfield to a receiver and it got tipped in the air and somehow I ran right under it and caught it and ran in for a touchdown. As soon as that happened they started designing plays for me.
Who was toughest receiver you lined up against in the NFL?It would have to be the guys that I lined up against twice. The ones that were in our division, Mark Clayton of the Dolphins, Wesley Walker with the Jets, Lynn Swan and John Stallworth for Pittsburgh were always a test.
Were there any "bounties" for big hits in your day? We didn't use that term, but we did use the word pool. We'd have a pool of money; it wasn't to hurt people, it was for fumbles and interceptions and sacks. It certainly wasn't for the kind of money that these guys are talking about.
Where do you stand on the concussion issue? There were a lot of times that I got knocked out, but I stayed in the game. ... I certainly agree with the head-to-head contact rule changes between quarterbacks and defenseless wide receivers. I was in a game in 1978 when a teammate of mine, Darryl Stingley, was hit and paralyzed. ... It was a situation where there was a defenseless guy in the air ... The league's new policies will help but you will never be able to prevent a concussion in a sport that is as violent as football in the NFL.
What is life like now for Raymond Clayborn? I have a 17-year-old daughter who's getting ready to go to college and a 13-year-old boy who's an eighth-grader and a pretty good football player. I tell him, 'Let's get through the eighth grade first then we'll work on the rest of it.' Basically right now I'm a stay-at-home dad.
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