Brian Clay couldn’t wait. Almost immediately after Washington Huskies coach Chris Petersen delivered the good news last week, Clay was on the phone to his mother and father.
No more out-of-state tuition checks for him. Clay, a junior safety, is now on scholarship, along with defensive tackle and Olympia High grad Drew Schultz, another former walk-on.
“My dad was overjoyed,” said Clay, a native of Vacaville, California, “and my mom, she started crying, she was so happy.
“I’m super excited. One of the greatest days I’ve had out here in a minute.”
Clay played the first two seasons of his college career at Hawaii — UW’s opponent Saturday in its season opener — as a scholarship player, seeing the field in eight games as a freshman before redshirting in 2012.
He chose to transfer to UW as a walk-on prior to the 2013 season, primarily because his mother, Mary Jane, is battling multiple sclerosis, and he wanted to accompany her on her visits the University of Washington’s renowned Multiple Sclerosis Center for treatment.
Steve Sarkisian and the previous coaching staff had assured Clay he would be awarded a scholarship following the 2013 season. But when they left, he wasn’t sure if that promise would be fulfilled.
Now, here he is, a scholarship football player on a Pac-12 team. And though he’s not on the two-deeps, Clay figures to play a prominent role on special teams against his former school on Saturday.
“He brought his lunch pail to work every single day, and he was ready to work and ready to grind,” defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake said. “He’s a great reserve safety for us right now. Knows both safety spots. Also knows corner, played a lot of corner in spring. And is just going to be a huge special-teams asset for us. And a guy that comes to work every day like that, we have to respect, and he’s going to do so many things for us this year, it was just a well-deserved scholarship.”
One that will save the Clay family a solid chunk of change.
“You gain a little bit more respect in your peers and your coaches’ eyes that you worked hard for,” Clay said, “and financially, paying out of state tuition is a lot tougher than most people believe, so taking that financial burden off my parents, it’s overjoy right there.”
Petersen described Clay and Schultz, a fifth-year senior, as “two kids that have done everything right, worked their tail off; our weight room (staff) has loved them, the guys in our locker room really love those kids. And it’s always a good day when we can take care of guys who deserve to be on.”
The Huskies’ six-hour flight from Seattle to Honolulu on Thursday will not be without structure. Petersen said position coaches will administer tests to their players in order to keep them occupied and make the most of their time in the air.
“Some coaches have a one-page sheet, some have a three-page sheet,” Petersen said. “It could be our different calls, where they would align, their assignment, alignment, technique, those type of things. And most coaches throw in some fun type questions that have to do with Hawaii, those type of things. Keep them on their toes.”
The team will visit Pearl Harbor on Friday, Petersen said, a trip he made with Boise State several times when the Broncos’ visited Honolulu.
“We wouldn’t go every time, but we’d go maybe every other time to make sure everyone in that cycle of the roster would get a chance to see it,” Petersen said. “When we played Virginia Tech back in Washington D.C., we went by and took a look at the White House, then we went and saw all the war memorials.
“It’s always interesting, because those players want nothing to do with that. All they want is to go play ball. I get it. Very focused. But after we do those things, they’re very appreciative, and I think they get it. I think they see the bigger picture.”