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Clemons not backing down going into final season at UW

May 31—LARAMIE — Jayden Clemons' raw emotions poured out at the podium following the University of Wyoming's 14-13 win over Colorado State in the 2022 Border War.

His tears spilled over at the podium exactly one week later, but for a completely different reason.

Clemons was the hero of the Border War, finding wide receiver Alex Brown for a 32-yard touchdown pass down the sideline to put the Cowboys ahead early in the fourth quarter. Clemons entered the game as the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart, but he was thrust into action following a head injury to starter Andrew Peasley in the first half.

Clemons' tears after retaining the Bronze Boot stemmed from pure joy after helping lead his team to a rivalry win. He was named the starter the following week after Peasley failed to clear concussion protocol in time to take on Boise State in a pivotal conference game at War Memorial Stadium.

Clemons was never able to find the same spark against the Broncos that had led him past Colorado State. He finished the night 3-of-16 for 30 yards and three interceptions, including two in Boise State's endzone.

His last interception sealed the Mountain Division for the Broncos, and ended any hopes of UW playing in the Mountain West title game for the first time since 2016.

Clemons didn't let the emotions stop him from making his scheduled appearance at the podium later that night.

"I don't really know how to process it or how to put it into words," Clemons said after the game. "The biggest thing in my mind is, I feel like I have to do more for my team. They trusted me, and I feel like there were plays out there where I could have done better and could have made more plays to not have us in that situation."

Clemons' emotional journey at UW took another twist last fall. After serving as the Cowboys' backup quarterback in 2022, Clemons was surpassed on the depth chart by sophomore Evan Svoboda during Peasley's final season in Laramie.

Svoboda has already been named the starter going into this season following Peasley's graduation, but that hasn't made Clemons work any less. He's been determined to scratch and claw his way back up the depth chart, which hasn't gone unnoticed by first-year head coach Jay Sawvel.

"A year ago, he was on the scout team," Sawvel said last month. "He could have pouted, he could have complained and moaned and done everything else. He could have done all that stuff, and he didn't. He had a great attitude day in, day out. He has proven he's a good teammate.

"So, we're going to give him every opportunity to do the best he can in the program and see where that takes him."

Sawvel played a big part in Clemons' decision to return to UW for a sixth college season. The Utah transfer was put on scholarship by former head coach Craig Bohl after winning the backup job in 2022, but he was taken by surprise following Bohl's sudden retirement in December.

Clemons' anxiety of who would take over the program didn't last long.

"I didn't really know (if I was coming back or not), to be honest," Clemons told WyoSports last month. "... With the announcement of (Bohl retiring), everybody was kind of blindsided by that. But with the hiring of Sawvel, that made it really easy for a lot of guys to come back.

"To play this sixth year with (Sawvel being promoted), that really solidified my process for coming back and just continuing to play football. It's been a great decision for me."

Clemons proved he earned the backup quarterback job — for a second time — during UW's spring game last month. He finished 18-of-27 for 174 yards for the Gold Team.

Projected third-string quarterback Kaden Anderson, who finished the spring game 14-of-22 for 116 yards and an interception, has appreciated being able to learn from Clemons' experiences since arriving on campus last fall.

"Jayden really is someone to look up to," Anderson said. "Especially with how high his highs have been and how low his lows have been, and he's still been the same consistent guy. He really is a great guy, and it's been fun watching him this spring."

Clemons has enjoyed the faster pace the Cowboys are playing at under first-year offensive coordinator Jay Johnson, and he expects the new style to help UW win games on the field this fall.

"It's a lot more fun," Clemons said with a laugh. "We're throwing the ball probably two or three times (more) during practice in general than we did before. Just the system of our offense being faster and being able to go out of no-huddle and throw the ball more, it's not only beneficial to (the quarterbacks), but also for the receivers on the outside.

"It's going to do a lot of for us offensively and as a team when it comes time for the season."

Clemons didn't garner any scholarship offers out of high school. He walked on as a quarterback at Utah, but was switched to safety during his first season on campus. He eventually came to UW in 2021 and has been a Cowboy ever since.

His decision to return for one last season didn't stem from a need to prove others right. For Clemons, the decision meant much more than that.

"I've been really motivated," Clemons said. "If you've kept track of my career here, you've seen the highs and the lows. I didn't want to go out the way I did (last year). I didn't want to not be able to prove myself right in some sense, so being able to have one more opportunity to give it all I've got (is important).

"I put everything I can into this, and I still have time to achieve my dreams and to accomplish my goals. That's really been the biggest motivating factor."

It'd be hard to find someone in UW's locker room who has had more of a turbulent career than Clemons. But what he's gained going into his final season with the Cowboys is a fresh perspective on football.

That new perspective has made his goal for this season pretty simple.

"The goal still is to be on the field, as everyone's goal is," Clemons said. "If they say they don't want to be on the field, they're lying."

Alex Taylor is the assistant editor for WyoSports and covers University of Wyoming athletics. He can be reached at ataylor@wyosports.net. Follow him on X at @alex_m_taylor22.