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Free State football standout commits to KU; ‘I can be near my support community,’ he says

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Calvin Clements, a senior at Free State High School and Jayhawk fan growing up, is staying home for college.

The 3-star offensive lineman committed to Baylor University on June 24, but his plans have changed: in 2023, Clements will attend the University of Kansas, he announced Wednesday evening. 

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“For the past week, I’ve had some change of heart,” Clements said in an interview. “God put some different thoughts in my head and helped me realize the value of going to KU: I can stay local, I can be near my support community and stay close to my family.”

Clements, who stands at about 6-foot-7 and 290 pounds, announced Tuesday that he would be decommitting from Baylor University, with an announcement to follow soon. 

“I really love Baylor, and that program is special,” he said. “The decision was just a change of heart on my part, and Baylor didn’t do anything negative to impact that.”

In addition to proximity and locality, the importance of family and trust is big for Clements, which is another reason he said KU rose to the top of his list.

Mac Moore, KSHSAA Covered/Contributed photo Calvin Clements (77), right, stands at about 6-foot-7 and 290 pounds.

“I found a strong connection with the offensive line coach Scott Fuchs,” Clements said, describing meeting KU coach Lance Leipold’s staff. “Through their family attending our church and playing football with his son, Hank, we’ve developed a good, genuine relationship.”

This season, KU finished with a record of 6-6, their best since 2008. Meanwhile, Baylor finished with the same record, 6-6, just a year removed from a 12-win season. Kansas will also compete in a bowl game for the first time since 2008 — the AutoZone Liberty Bowl vs. Arkansas, set for Dec. 28.

At KU, Clements will study psychology and work toward the ultimate goal of going to the NFL, but he added that he’s looked at getting into coaching or sports psychology beyond college.

Free State head coach Kevin Stewart holds Clements in high regard and understands the difficulty of the decision that he’s faced.

Kevin Stewart

“He is a very genuine person,” Stewart said. “He really was strongly committed to Baylor. He had a great time there and getting to know their coaches, but at the end of the day, I think he’s realized he wants to be close to his family.”

Although his future is bright, the past of Clements’ football career has not been all clear skies.

“My freshman year, I was playing 8-man football at Veritas [Christian School],” Clements said. “After transferring to Free State for my sophomore year, I was unable to play varsity football because of KSHSAA guidelines.”

At the close of a successful junior season, in which the Firebirds went 8-3, Clements broke his leg in the team’s last game of the year.

“There maybe would’ve been 10, 15 more plays in that game,” Stewart said. “He ended what was a great season. But he faced that adversity and continued to move forward. I’m very proud of him for that.”

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While rehabbing and getting back up to speed, Clements found value in such an unpleasant situation.

“That experience helped put me in perspective,” he said. “It flipped a switch in my head that not only how injuries are prevalent in sports, but that sports aren’t my life; I find my identity in Christ and my family.”

Clements went on to start every game as a senior, lead the team as a captain and stay healthy, too.

“That’s kind of the story of Calvin, I think,” Stewart said. “After not being able to play varsity his sophomore year, after getting injured, after facing a really tough decision like decommitting, he’s just continued to work and do what’s best for him.”

Stewart added that “now was the time for him to decide: ‘Do I really want to move to Waco, or do I want to be a local, hometown guy at KU?’”

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Jack Ritter (he/him), a contributor to The Lawrence Times, is a student-journalist at Lawrence High School currently serving as the editor-in-chief for The Budget Online.

You can view more of his work for The Budget Online here. Read more of his work for the Times here.

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