EUGENE - Anyone who watched last year's Civil War football game will remember the play.

Oregon led 16-7 early in the third quarter with a fourth-and-3 play at its 28-yard line.

A punt would have been expected but instead it was reserve linebacker Michael Clay rumbling down the field for a 64-yard run on a fake play that led to a touchdown three plays later.

"I remember checking to it, (Oregon State) gave us the right formation and just going with it ... going up the field, trying not to fumble and to get to the closest sideline," Clay said. "It was a great experience. We practiced it for the whole week. If they presented it to us we were going to take it."

The play was the highlight of Clay's two-year playing career with the Ducks to that point.

But Clay would rather it not be what people remember about him in an Oregon uniform.

"I want to be known as an all-around guy, not just on special team but great on defense," he said. "I want to be a good all-around player."

Clay, a junior at 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds, is on the path to being more of a household name this season.

With the departure of linebackers Casey Matthews and Spencer Paysinger, who combined for 72 career starts, Clay will get his chance.

"His role hasn't changed. He's been a leader on this team since his freshman year," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. "What his approach is and how he comes to play ... he's always been a real mature kid."

Clay, who has not started but has played in 26 games, appeared to pick up the pace as soon as Matthews and Paysinger were gone.

He showed Oregon coaches during spring practices he was ready to take on an extra load.

"He was a standout player in the spring, and I would argue he was our MVP of the defense in the spring. He's really a leader on the defense right now," Kelly said.

"I think he's going to have a breakout season this year, one of the top linebackers in the country."

A smile comes to Clay's face when he thinks of that Civil War play.

He took a direct snap from the long snapper and made his way inside the Oregon State 10.

Clay ran the ball a little while playing fullback at Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose, Calif., but he hadn't touched the ball in a live game since.

"It brought me back to my high school days," Clay said. "If that's something I have to do to help the team, a 64-yard run to set up a score, I'll do it anytime."

But he looks past that, to a new role now.

His new seniority among the linebackers has brought on an individual leadership role that he earlier shared with others.

With his unit, it's more of a vocal lead that he takes, while with the team in general he does it more by example.

Kelly has big expectations for Clay, who in turn keeps his own aspirations simple.

"Just give it all. I'm not the biggest back but I'll play the part," he said. "I have goals for myself ... anything is possible so I might as well take it."

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.