Michael Clayton is thankful for the opportunity he had to play in the National Football League. It set him up, he said, to serve a greater purpose.
Clayton, a wide receiver, was the Buccaneers' first-round draft pick in 2004 out of LSU. He played in Tampa for six seasons before finishing his career with the Giants in 2011. Over the course of his career, he caught 223 passes for 2,955 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Upon retiring, he remained in Tampa and found his passion for giving back to the community.
"We always have the mindset that our purpose in life is to play football," Clayton said. "When you're trying to find purpose - purpose lasts forever. It's inevitable that football is going to end one day. So, truth be told, football is not your purpose in life. It's a stepping stone to fulfill your purpose in life."
"I've had a great career. Many great years with the Bucs, I won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants. But what was most gratifying out of it all was once the glamour and the fame was gone, once the money was gone - I was able to service my community and really serve my purpose."
Clayton is involved with several charities, but one, the Life After Football Project, is close to his heart. The LAF aims to mentor and support foster children.
"There were a lot of kids who were better than me, bigger than me and faster than me," Clayton said. "But they fell by the wayside because they didn't have parents like I had. They didn't have mentors like I had. They weren't focused in the classroom like I was. All of these things, I grew a big passion to give back to these young kids when they're 12, 13 years old because they should experience the same life that I experienced."
This Week's Throwback Thursday gallery features former Bucs WR Michael Clayton.
In addition to his charity work, Clayton is involved in real estate and does public speaking appearances. This past fall, he returned to school to finish up his degree.
"I made a promise to my mother that I would graduate," Clayton said. "The Bucs picked me up early so I was drafted out as a junior. I never really had the time after being married and having kids. It was really tough. I wanted to graduate from LSU but my wife is a doctor, so I wasn't able to leave and uproot the family or leave the family and go back home to graduate. So I decided to pick up some great hobbies, keep busy and then at the right time, which was last semester, I re-enrolled at Florida College to finish my degree."
Clayton wears many hats and doesn't know where the next road will take him, but he said that he'll always cherish the time he spent with the Buccaneers.
"Once you come into an organization as this one," Clayton said, "you always feel connected."
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