Clay's football journey more meaningful with family

Panthers WR Kaelin Clay's journey to Carolina has been a long one, but it finally feels like home

CHARLOTTE, N.C.- With ten seconds, sixty yards and six points Kaelin Clay fulfilled one of the first promises he ever made to his nearly eight week old daughter, Kennedi.

It was his second NFL touchdown and his first with the Panthers, but to understand just how much this moment meant to Clay, you have to first take a look back.

His journey to get to the NFL started at a junior college and later took him to Utah. He bounced around on five NFL teams in the last three seasons, including a back and forth 2017.

Clay made the Panthers 53 man roster but was traded to Buffalo in September. In October, the Panthers brought him back, and one month later he was standing in the end zone in New York.

It was an NFL career that almost didn't happen. He met his longtime girlfriend Jacquelin at junior college, and when the road to get to a major football school became tough, he thought about enlisting in the military.

"I was sick and tired of everything, I was fed up with things and I was just like, 'I think I'm just going to enter the military, and get my life moving.' And my girlfriend told me that's not happening, she helped me through things," Clay said.

The ups and downs of the long journey to get back to Carolina weren't easy, but they don't seem as significant these days. Clay cherishes every opportunity he gets as a football player, but his favorite title is dad.

"You don't take it for granted, because every moment means something in some way," Clay said.

That's why he spent time before Sunday's game FaceTiming his daughter.

"That was the first time I had actually talked to her via FaceTime before a game. I let her know, 'Daddy's doing this for you, and I'm going to get one,'" Clay said.

It might have seemed like a long shot promise to some, but Clay cashed in on it and even got more than he expected.

"Coach Rivera actually gave me the opportunity to break the team down, and that was very special just because of the journey I've been on," Clay said.

He also left New York with a game ball, but from the moment Rivera put it in his hands he knew he'd be handing it to Kennedi.

His family is still in the process of moving from California to Carolina, so last Sunday's game was the first time he got to come home to a house that wasn't empty.

"To have them here with me right now, and for them to be here with me with the success we're having as a team, it's special," Clay said.

He says he walked in and grabbed the daughter, and put the game ball in her room. It's a moment she won't remember, but a small reminder of the journey it took him to get here and what he plays for every time he steps on the field.

© 2017 WCNC.COM


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