North-South football: For Martinsburg's Clinton, one last shot to shine at quarterback
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Martinsburg quarterback Justin "Cookie" Clinton will get an early look at his collegiate home Saturday at the North-South All-Star Game.
But the next time he takes the field at University of Charleston Stadium - after starting this weekend's game at QB - he'll be in a Golden Eagles uniform and he'll be catching passes instead of throwing them.
While the 2012 Kennedy Award runner-up is excited for his future, he's relishing one more shot at showing what he can do with his arm.
"Being in an all-star classic high school game is a big opportunity," he said Tuesday. "With all the kids that got invited here, you wouldn't have been invited here if you weren't the athlete the coaches see you to be. It's a great opportunity and you've got to give it your all every day."
The wide receiver position isn't foreign to Clinton. He played there before Martinsburg Coach Dave Walker tabbed him to start at quarterback in 2012 and attempt a rare three-peat with the Class AAA state title. Only one other team, Charleston High in 1968-70, had pulled it off in that classification.
The Bulldogs joined that exclusive club with Clinton at quarterback. For the season, the 5-foot-10, 167-pounder threw for 1,660 yards and 18 touchdowns and rushed for 1,542 yards and 24 touchdowns. In four playoff games, wins over Beckley, Musselman, George Washington and Cabell Midland, he rushed for 680 yards and 13 touchdowns and threw for 433 yards and four scores.
North Coach Jodi Mote, the head coach at St. Marys, considered it an easy decision to give Clinton the starting nod for Saturday's game. That decision was reinforced, he said, as he's watched Clinton practice during the week. His footwork and athleticism are evident.
Martinsburg linebacker Jared Sartin - another North team member from Martinsburg with Clinton and running back Gary Awkard - could have told everyone how good Clinton is from the beginning. He lined up against him in practice every day.
"He's an athlete," Sartin said. "He's quick on his feet and he's shifty. You've just got to maintain."
But what's impressed Mote most this week hasn't been Clinton's physical talents, as impressive as they are. It's been Clinton's demeanor.
"Probably what stood out the most was his attitude," he said. "He could have easily come in and said, 'This is not how we do it,' or 'This is how I do it.' He's been so receptive to whatever you throw at him. That's probably what's been remarkable about him. He's a team player."
Clinton's next team, the UC Golden Eagles, enters the 2013 season trying to build off its successes from 2012. The Golden Eagles finished 9-2 and tied with Shepherd for 25th in the country at the end of the regular season. But losses to the Rams and Glenville State left them in second place in the final season of the West Virginia Conference and out of the playoffs.
UC wants a playoff berth in the inaugural season of the Mountain East Conference, and Clinton could help with that right off the bat. He said Golden Eagles coaches told him he could start immediately at slot receiver and help the team improve on its 1,609 passing yards and nine passing touchdowns from last year.
Clinton said his experience at quarterback should help make him a more effective receiver in a shorter period of time.
"It's going to help a lot," Clinton said. "I've been talking with the quarterback at UC and he's mentally ready. He makes good decisions. I know how to read the defense and he knows how to read the defense. We're on the same page at the same time, so there should be no reason why we shouldn't hook up."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712.