He is no stranger to competition. He has mastered the art of battling it out until the very end to achieve a goal. Sean Clifford is in the position he is now because he rose to the competition and put up an unmatched fight in order to win the starting quarterback position as a sophomore.
Going to a high school with a male student body automatically means he is facing a larger challenge. He had to prove that he was more ready and able for the job than the other 1,600 students.
This is when it becomes evident that Sean Clifford is not a quarterback to be looked over. To beat out over one thousand players for a single position, including guys who were older than you is impressive. But, not only did he win starting quarterback, he thrived.
Going into his senior season, he has only two years on the varsity team under his belt. In those two years, he has 1,940 yards with 18 passing touchdowns and 6 rushing touchdowns. He averages over 120 yards per game.
Every player has a different motive for why they love the game and dedicate their life to it. For Sean, he cherishes the family aspect. His teammates are not just fellow classmates who catch his passes, protect him in the pocket, and defend the points he puts on the board. His teammates share a special brotherhood; something he feels is unique to their locker room.
One goal that has yet to be accomplished looms in the back of Sean’s mind. It is his motivation to put in extra hours in the gym, watching film, and working through drills. “I want to go and win a state championship,” says Sean.
One of the most stressful aspects of playing football is the recruiting process. It usually encompasses two years of a player’s life, and the pressure of picking the right school can easily take over their brain. However, this was not the case for Sean.
He received offers from sixteen schools, including Penn State, Michigan State, and the University of North Carolina. His first offer from Akron came in June 2014, but things went quiet after that until March 2015, when the remainder of his fifteen offers came flooding in. After four short months, he received an offer from the school he knew was perfect, and ended his recruitment.
In June, he received an offer from Penn State University. Two weeks later, on July 13, 2015, he committed to play football for the Nittany Lions, becoming the first 2017 commit.
Penn State was everything he was looking for in a school. “I chose Penn State because it is the perfect balance between football, academics, and life,” says Sean.
His football resume is decorated with countless accomplishments, but there is one that ranks above all others. Thousands of quarterbacks across the country dream of it, but only a select few accomplish it. Sean Clifford is one of the few who can say he is a member of the Elite 11 fraternity.
Sean traveled to Columbus, Ohio to compete against other local quarterbacks in a regional competition. There, his game wowed the coaches more than any other player there, and he was named the Columbus MVP. Along with this title, he received the one thing he came for, the one thing he had been dreaming of for years – an invitation to travel to Los Angeles to compete for a spot in The Opening.
Upon arrival, Sean knew right away this was not just any other quarterback camp. “Coming to the Elite 11, I expect it to be a great group of guys who can all rip it,” Sean reveals in the YouTube mini series ‘Welcome to the It Factory’.
But what is Sean’s ‘it factor’? There is one special quality that separates him from every other quarterback - his preparation. The coaches sent each player a binder full of plays for them to know by the time camp started. Sean got right to work, memorizing every one. To help him grasp how each play works, he found a white board and drew out every element of the plays.
His unique dedication to the preparation is not a skill passed down to him through coaches that he has adapted to. His ability to structure learning in a way that translates to the field is something he’s taught himself how to do. “It is self taught for the most part because it is based off the amount of passion and love I have for the game,” says Sean.
Elite 11 head coach and former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer weighed in on Sean’s it factor. “Penn State is getting a really good one in Sean Clifford and one that’s going to dive in to the process of being a quarterback as much as anybody.”
Becoming one of the top quarterbacks in the country comes with a great amount of sacrifice. Something Sean has learned to give up is his spare time. He has had to prioritize his life, and because of this, has missed social experiences that other high school students may have enjoyed. But, he knows when he walks into Beaver Stadium in front of 100,000 fans wearing navy and white, every sacrifice will be worth it.
Because of his sacrifice, he is now an extremely accurate passer, and this is an element that separates and elevates him above other quarterbacks.
The future is very bright for Sean Clifford, who is not just caught up in the physical part of the game, but recognizes the importance of the mental aspect. His mentality is unlike most quarterbacks. He respects and dedicates himself to furthering his knowledge of the mental part of the game and that translates on the field.
Sean has already mastered the skill of loving preparation; he buys into the process. He is focused on the behind the scenes hours spent studying plays and perfecting them, ensuring he is prepared for every scenario come game time, and the defense cannot catch him off guard.
With the ability to learn these skills at such a young age, Sean is ahead of the competition. He is on track to have an outstanding senior season, make a good transition into college, and become a successful college football player.
Sean’s Advice: Never stop dreaming. The day you stop dreaming is the day you won’t get better.