Corey Clement played in a fairly big football game a few months ago that drew 103.4 million television viewers and an in-house crowd of more than 67,000.
But the nerves he felt that day at U.S. Bank Stadium were nothing compared to the ones he felt a couple of weeks ago when the poised 23-year-old Eagles running back stood in front of a few hundred people in his hometown of Glassboro, N.J., and delivered the commencement address at Rowan University.
“Before I did it, I was really nervous,’’ Clement said Tuesday after the Eagles completed their first OTA of the spring. “I was thinking, please don’t make me do this. Let me sit in the crowd and cheer [the graduates] on, because I had a few friends graduating.
“But as I was speaking, my confidence started to grow, and I said to myself, ‘I can do this.’ ’’
He did it beautifully, using his inspiring journey from undrafted rookie to Super Bowl hero to let Rowan’s class of 2018 know that they should never be discouraged by the odds of success in whatever career they get into.
“I made sure my story stuck to my journey leading to all of this,” he said.
Despite rushing for nearly 3,100 yards and 36 touchdowns at the University of Wisconsin, Clement went unclaimed in the 2017 draft and signed with the hometown Eagles.
He defied the odds and made the season-opening roster and played about a quarter of the team’s offensive snaps as a rookie and also was a valuable member of their special teams.
He settled into a role as the team’s third-down back after the Eagles traded for Jay Ajayi in late October, with Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount getting most of the ball-carrying opportunities on first and second downs.
In the 11 games — including the playoffs — after Ajayi’s arrival, Ajayi had 104 first- and second-down rushing attempts, Blount had 93 and Clement just 39.
Clement had just 10 receptions in the regular season. But he matched that total in the Eagles’ three playoff wins, catching 10 passes for 139 yards, including a critical 22-yard third-quarter touchdown pass against the Patriots in Super Bowl LII.
Clement has seen replays of his touchdown, but hasn’t yet watched the entire game.
“It makes me feel weird,” he said. “Maybe one day this summer before training camp starts, I’ll sit back and watch it when I don’t have anything to do. But that game gives me anxiety for some reason.”
Clement had five third-down receptions in the postseason for 91 yards and four first downs. His 22-yard TD catch from Nick Foles was one of those third-down receptions.
The only Eagle with more third-down receptions and more third-down receiving yards in the playoffs than Clement was Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz, who had 10 for 106 yards.
Not bad for an undrafted rookie who caught just 29 passes in four years at Wisconsin.
“I still think about it most nights when I lay my head back and look at some of the posters I’ve got hanging up and some of the Super Bowl stuff I’ve got,” he said. “It was an amazing season.
“But I’m definitely not satisfied. Last year is behind me. I lived my dream. Now I want to live a second dream and see what that’s going to feel like.”
The 5-foot-10, 216-pound Clement would like to become a bigger part of the Eagles’ first- and second-down ground game this year. Blount is gone, but Ajayi returns for at least one more year.
The Eagles have brought back 35-year-old Darren Sproles, who missed 13 games last year with a torn ACL. They also have Wendell Smallwood, 2017 fourth-round pick Donnel Pumphrey, veteran Matt Jones and undrafted rookie Josh Adams.
“There’s a lot of competition,’’ Clement said. “Going head to head with Jay, Wendell, Pump and Matt Jones. And the new undrafted guy [Adams], I’m pretty sure he’s got fire up under his skin like I did last year.
“I definitely want to get more touches, more carries, more catches out of the backfield this year. I want to be more of a key contributor. I don’t think that’s being greedy. I have a job to do and that’s to put this team in the best position possible [to win].”
Clement’s playing weight at Wisconsin fluctuated between 225 and 230 pounds. Last spring, Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley told him he needed to be lighter to be successful at this level.
He came into training camp last summer at 212 and played most of the year at 215. He said he’s 216 right now. Ideally, he’d like to get back down to 212, but “the weight room work is working. So I can’t be mad that I’m packing on more muscle.’’
Clement has spent much of the offseason trying to strengthen his legs.
“I’ve been doing a lot of lower-extremity exercises,” he said. “I haven’t focused as much on the upper body. Legs are more crucial to a running back. Being able to take the wear and tear as the year goes on. I want to add more strength and power in my legs. Get more of a pop. Be more fast and elusive out there.”
Last year, Staley likened Clement to an “old-school Honda Accord. You can put a lot of miles on them and they’re going to be consistent,’’ he said.
Clement appreciated the nice words, but is hoping for an upgrade from Staley this year. “Put me in a better class,” he said. “Compare me to something with a V-8 [engine] or something. I had an Acura back in high school. He could at least call me an Acura.”
Clement has been out and about during the offseason, mingling with the fans and sharing their joy over the Eagles’ first title in 57 years.
“It’s been pretty cool,” he said. “You go into a restaurant or a gas station or any place, they love it. Some fans still break into tears. Being a part of this organization and being from here has made it that much more special that we could do something for this city.
“I always try to go back to high school games or anything in the community where I can show my face. I don’t want people to ever say, ‘Oh, we don’t see Corey around here anymore ever since he won a Super Bowl.’ They won’t ever be able to say that about me. Because my face will always be there. I’ll always be helping people.”