Do you ever watch NFL games and wonder where these fantastic athletes come from? What their backgrounds are? When you think of hotbeds for NFL talent, Wellesley, MA might be the last place that comes to mind.
But Thomas Claiborne, a former football star at the high school who later played for the Boston College Eagles and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, calls Wellesley home.
Every athlete aspires to make it to the highest level of his or her sport, and Claiborne is one of the few that can say he did.
Claiborne’s football career was certainly a roller coaster ride. From the high of reaching two ACC championship games while at Boston College to the low of being the last person cut from the 53 man roster of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2011.
“Playing in two ACC championship games was an unbelievable experience. We played against numerous future NFL stars and it brought me so much closer to my teammates, who I still consider my brothers today. In 2008 and 2009, our team was truly a family,” said Claiborne.
While his football career had mostly been highs up to that point, everything changed in the spring before his senior season at BC. The Eagles’ new coach asked Claiborne to switch from offense to defense, which he was reluctant to do given his position on NFL draft boards at the time.
New Coach Frank Spaziani benched Claiborne for the first six games of his senior season for refusing the position switch, citing Claiborne’s lack of commitment to the team. While the benching sent him spiraling down draft boards, and alienated him from his new coach, Claiborne credits it as one thing that put football in perspective.
“The reason I went to BC was because I could be a true student-athlete there, and the benching reminded me of that. It kept me motivated to continue pursuing my degree,” said Claiborne.
Following his senior season at BC, Claiborne signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent, but was released just before the regular season. He was unable to catch on with another team, but did spend two years in the Arena Football League before retiring.
Although his pro career didn’t work out the way he wanted, Claiborne has no regrets, and credits his degree from BC as the reason he is set up well for life post football.
“The number one thing I would say to a kid being recruited and looking to go pro is, make sure to get your degree, set yourself up for life after football,” said Claiborne.
Claiborne is currently translating his football knowledge to coaching as an assistant coach for both the middle and high school football teams.
“I am really looking forward to getting into coaching. It has given me the opportunity to return to my hometown and stay involved with the game I love. I am excited to see how much our program will improve in the future,” said Claiborne.
(Peter Santo ’16, Sports Editor)