Clawson High senior receiver TJ Verner sheds a tackle from a Madison Heights Lamphere player in a Sept. 21 game against the Rams. The Trojans won 48-7 with help from a Verner touchdown on five catches and 70 yards receiving.

Clawson High senior receiver TJ Verner sheds a tackle from a Madison Heights Lamphere player in a Sept. 21 game against the Rams. The Trojans won 48-7 with help from a Verner touchdown on five catches and 70 yards receiving.

Photo by Donna Dalziel


Homegrown TJ Verner leading the way for Clawson High football

By: Jacob Herbert | Royal Oak Review | Published September 25, 2018

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CLAWSON — Talk to most youth football players today and they may point to a team or a specific player when asked about what got them interested in the sport of football. That’s not the case for TJ Verner. The senior receiver for Clawson High says his moment came when he attended a flag football game at the age of 5. Soon thereafter, he asked his mother if he could sign up and play himself. She said yes.

It didn’t take Verner long to realize he had exceptional football talent. It was around fifth grade when he scored multiple touchdowns as a running back and realized the sport was something he could be pretty good at. 

Clawson coach Jim Sparks has seen Verner come up through the Clawson system. Now in his third season with the varsity team, Sparks sees the same talent in Verner that Verner sees in himself.

“Some kids, they play, but they don’t have an understanding of what you’re doing or no clue as to why,” Sparks said. “TJ understands the what and the why. Couple that with the athletic ability, and you’ve got yourself a pretty special kid.”

Sparks said Verner has the ability to play cornerback and safety when needed. Wherever he’s asked to go, he does it without question and does the best he possibly can. He even played quarterback for a game against Center Line High when the Trojans’ usual starting quarterback was out. Verner threw two touchdown passes.

“Usually, before games, I get anxious more than nervous,” Verner said. “That game, I was a little nervous, but we came out and scored on our first drive, and after that, I was fine.”

In the past, Verner described his leadership style as a lead-by-example type of player. But in his last season, Verner says his style has changed.

“This year, I became more of a vocal leader,” he said. “In the past, I just did my own thing, but this year, the coaches told me I had to take more of a vocal leadership role. That’s something I think I’ve improved the most on this year.”

Sparks doesn’t want to put too much pressure on Verner, so he didn’t place any huge expectations on him. Sparks just wants to see more of the same. At press time, Verner had 19 catches for 366 yards and five touchdowns in four games at receiver — all of which lead the team. In his one game at quarterback, Verner was 10-of-16 passing for 116 yards and two touchdowns. 

Verner says he’s not putting too much thought into college football plans yet, as the Trojans still have a ways to go in the current campaign. At press time, the team was 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the Macomb Area Conference Bronze Division. 

Verner said he has visited a few Division 2 schools, including Northwood University and Hillsdale College. He has not made a decision yet, but says whatever school he picks will be the one that he feels most comfortable in.

As special as it was for Sparks to watch Verner grow up in the Clawson program and coach him on varsity, the 16-year coach says it will be what happens after Verner’s playing days that become the most important. 

“Biggest reward I get here is hopefully I’ll see TJ when he’s 50 years old someday, and we talk football and he talks about how it was the best time of his life,” Sparks said. “Hopefully that’s what we get out of it, and that’s what we wish for him.”

Call Sports Writer Jacob Herbert at (586) 498-1062. Follow Sports on Twitter @CandGSports.

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