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It all paid off for Claypool

Chase Claypool had just finished doing a round of media interviews from his home in Canada the day after he was selected by the Steelers in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

As he settled in for the last one for a few days, he took a deep breath.

"It is still sinking in," said Claypool. "That is for sure."

It's been quite the whirlwind for Claypool, who patiently waited his turn to hear Commissioner Roger Goodell announce his name as the first player the Steelers selected in the draft.

"It's super nerve wracking watching and waiting," admitted Claypool. "I watched Day 1. I wasn't too nervous because I knew if I got picked then it would be one of the last few teams. I was hoping Day 2. Watching Day 2 and you know any team can pick you. That is super nerve wracking. You are waiting to see what happens. Hearing my name being called finally was awesome.

"You can't say how you are going to react until it happens. I had a big smile on my face. I couldn't get the smile off my face, especially to go to a team like the Steelers. I was super excited."

And Steelers fans should be excited to have Claypool. Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly referred to him as a player who "epitomizes Steelers Nation" because of his approach, attitude, and another valuable quality, his dependability. Last year he was called upon time and time again to come through in the clutch for the Fighting Irish, and he did just that.

"It was cool to be in those situations," said Claypool. "Going into the year I was told I would have to be in situations that when the game is on the line, I was going to have to make a play. The more you are in those situations, in practice or game, you learn and grow from it. Preparation was the key to make that happen."

Claypool had 66 receptions for 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns his senior season and was the recipient of the Monogram Club Most Valuable Player honor. But his talents go beyond the numbers, as his blocking ability is something that will have him fit right in with the Steelers offense and his desire to play special teams is so strong he convinced Kelly to let him stay on all special teams units his senior season.

"I was always playing special teams and it didn't feel right not to," said Claypool. "I wanted to make the plays and help the team. It was an easy decision to go up to his office and ask him what he thought and give him my opinion that I should stay on the units. It just felt right."

It was no surprise to Kelly that Claypool wanted to go the extra mile. That is something he has been doing his entire life.

Claypool grew up in Abbotsford, British Columbia, where hockey was the sport of choice over football. Claypool played both basketball and football, but football would be where his heart would take him.

At times, though, it was a broken heart.

When he was just 13 years old, he was awaken one morning by his mother, Jasmine, with words he could barely even process. His sister, Ashley, who was only 17 years old, had taken her own life.

"When my mom told me, I thought I was still dreaming," said Claypool. "She woke me up and told me. I brushed it off as something that couldn't be possible. When I woke up it set in. it's a situation you can never prepare for.

"It was definitely super difficult. It's a situation you don't know how to handle. At first you want to push everyone away and shun the world for it. The older I got, the more mature I got, I was using everyone around me as a resource. I used that for relationships I could build with people. It was difficult at first, but I learned how to handle it and it's helped me the rest of my life.

"It made me be there for my mom that much more. Having to deal with something like that at an early age speeds up the process."

Claypool carries his sister's memory with him on a daily basis. He has a tattoo on his right arm that reads:

"A thousand words won't bring you back. I know, because I tried. Neither will a thousand tears. I know, because I've cried. Until we meet again."

It motivates him in everything he does.

"I want to show she always lives with me," said Claypool. "She always has a special place with me. It's just a little dedication to her."

The motivation and drive he gets from that, and wanting to do for his mother, drove him to give sports his all. But the attention didn't come his way, so he had to take his own steps. Claypool put together his high school highlights and put them on Facebook, where they made their way to the Notre Dame coaching staff and got him an invite to their camp and offered him a scholarship. The rest, as they say, is history.

"Growing up I would never think it was a reality that all of this would happen, but it was always a dream," said Claypool. "With the obstacles that come with coming from a different country to get to this position. You never want to get your hopes up. You dream of something like this. Luckily for me it paid off."

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