Sep. 14—There are times he doesn't want to be considered "the little brother."
There are others, though, when Liam Clifford is perfectly content with the moniker. After all, when your older brother holds just about every passing record at Penn State, it's difficult to avoid the obvious.
The winner of the Nittany Lions' hotly contested preseason competition to be the starting third receiver, Clifford still gets as many questions about his older brother, current Green Bay Packers quarterback Sean Clifford, as he does his own rise up the depth chart. That's just fine to Liam Clifford, though, considering how much he has gained from the relationship.
"I've learned a ton from him," Clifford said. "I look up to him, a lot."
Saturday's Big Ten opener at Illinois will be a homecoming, of sorts, for him. The Clifford family has its roots just outside of Chicago, and the fact that some members of his extended family could make the 2 1/2 -hour drive south to Champaign is something that excites him.
Family has always been important to Clifford, especially growing up with an older brother who paved the way for his own career.
If Sean was throwing the passes in the backyard, Liam was running the routes and hauling them in. Their basketball games in the driveway back in Cincinnati were physical affairs. They were competitive with each other, which taught them both to compete on the field.
"I would say work ethic is something he taught me, just watching him when I was growing up," Clifford said. "Once I started to get older, doing workouts with him, training together during COVID when he came back when the season was canceled (in 2020). That was a really cool opportunity."
However, for Clifford, there came a time to start carving his own path.
To crack the receiving rotation at Penn State, he couldn't rely solely on his upbringing, on a relationship with the quarterback. He needed to get better, to earn his playing time.
So, it wasn't necessarily Sean that made him a college receiver, but the players he started to spend more time around. It became a matter of dipping into the resources Penn State offered, and the talent it already had.
"It was more taking things from different people's games," Clifford said. "We've had a ton of really great receivers the last few years here, guys like Jahan Dotson, Parker Washington, Mitch Tinsley. I was just learning things from them, being a sponge, just kind of waiting my turn, trying to get better every single day. I just continue to work. I'm very routine oriented, so just every single day, I'm finding different things to make myself better and push myself."
Despite playing only a handful of snaps in the 63-7 win over Delaware at Beaver Stadium last Saturday, Clifford is off to a strong start to his career as a starter.
The redshirt sophomore had two catches in the season-opening win against West Virginia and threw a key block to break fellow receiver Malik McClain free on a touchdown catch-and-run. He followed that up with another two-catch outing against the Blue Hens.
It's not a torrid pace, but it's a start.
And, that's all Liam Clifford wanted at Penn State anyway. He didn't mind being Sean's little brother at the start, as long as he could earn the chance to be himself.
"It's just more motivation to make a name for myself," Clifford said.
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