Owasso Football Star Jake Clifton Follows Former Ram Wayne Jones to Kansas State
By Mike Moguin
GTR Sports Writer
Being friends with someone who knows the ropes can influence your decision on where you choose to play college football.
That’s the case with Owasso standout Jake Clifton. A friendship with Wayne Jones, a member of the Rams’ 2017 Class 6AI state championship team, led Clifton to choose to play at Kansas State. After graduating from Owasso in 2018, Jones went on to play for the Wildcats.
Clifton, a linebacker, committed to Kansas State on July 2 and took part in a signing ceremony with other football players, including Chris McClellan with Florida, signing with their respective schools on Dec. 15 at Owasso High School.
“I was just comfortable where I was and the position I held and the conference I was choosing,” Clifton said. “It was close to home in the Big 12 Conference. The people I knew there, like Wayne Jones, although he transferred to Charlotte, had a lot of good words to say about K-State. He had great things to say about the town (Manhattan, Kan.) and the people.”
Clifton chose the Wildcats over Mizzou, Illinois, Washington State, Tulsa, Air Force, Liberty and Army. He and his family traveled up three times to the Little Apple, including games against Nevada and Baylor, this past regular season
“They’re all great experiences. We had a great time. I loved the environment and got in the locker room and got to talk to Wayne,” Clifton said.
When Kansas State blasted LSU, 42-20, in the Texas Bowl on Jan. 4, Clifton was excited. He was just learning of the news after the Owasso basketball team, which he also plays for, was finishing its game at Muskogee. He spent most of his time the following day watching highlights on YouTube. While Clifton looks forward to his experience in the Little Apple, he recognizes the work he must put in.
“You can’t really say ‘I want to go there and start,’ because that is everybody’s dream, obviously,” he said. “I’m kind of on the realistic side. Whatever happens, happens. Whatever work I put in, whatever opportunity shows, I’ll take advantage of it. If that means redshirting or starting early, then so be it.”
It has only been two seasons since Clifton began playing linebacker. Before that, he had been playing quarterback.
“Since I’ve played linebacker, it is the most fun position,” he said. “You get to get your nose into the play every single play. You’re rushing the quarterback on the pass, you’re hittin’ the gas on runs, there is no way you could sit there and pass your hands or whatever. That’s my favorite thing about linebacker. You always get to be in something and if you’re not, you’re not doing something right.”
Clifton’s favorite NFL linebacker is Isaiah Simmons of the Arizona Cardinals.
With his high school playing days behind him, Clifton says his sophomore year was the highlight of his career.
“We won state (2019) and I’ll never forget as Isaiah Jacobs (a senior running back that year) came up to me in practice, talking to me, giving me some confidence,” Clifton said. “A week later, we were playing Broken Arrow in the state semifinals in Jenks. We were down by a touchdown in the third quarter, Tristan Profit (another senior that year) decks the runner and I just picked up the ball and it was the longest five yards of my life.”
Clifton was credited with a five-yard fumble return for a touchdown on the play.
“I don’t even know what happened, but I scored. It was the first touchdown of my sophomore year,” he said. “We partied like it was the last thing in the world and Cole Dugger (senior quarterback that year) came up to me, jumped up with me, had a good time, it was like the highlight of my high school career – playwise.”
The Rams won that game against the Tigers, 42-27. They went on to beat Jenks, 14-6, in the state final that year.
Clifton believes with the athletes returning next season, the Owasso program is in good hands.
“I think it’s in good hands,” he said. “I think Cole Adams, Emery Neeley, Brayden Foster, there are going to be some big names in Owasso. They’re going to realize from the past two years what has happened and not let it happen again. Hopefully, they’ll learn from us and do great things.”