By Alex Norman
There are few athletes from East Tennessee that have accomplished as much in their professional careers as Tyson Clabo, a 2000 graduate of Farragut High School.
But because his trade is a rather anonymous one, on the offensive line in the National Football League, his achievements have gone unnoticed to many.
“East Tennessee is where I began my athletic pursuits,” said Clabo in a recent phone interview. “I had some good coaches there, and that helped me go forward.”
Clabo plays right tackle for the Miami Dolphins. It is his first season with that organization, after spending seven years with the Atlanta Falcons. But getting to this point, as an established member of an NFL team, wasn’t easy.
During the recruiting process out of Farragut, Clabo considered attending MTSU and Marshall, but in the end chose Wake Forest. It was the best of both worlds. “Incredible academics, that was a big draw for me,” said Clabo. “Also, they played in a major conference (ACC). That was very appealing.”
Four years later, Clabo had 37 starts under his belt, and was an All-ACC First Team selection in his senior season of 2003.
But all of that hard work didn’t translate into becoming an NFL Draft pick. In 2004 he didn’t hear his name called, and had to make it via the free agent route.
Clabo was signed by the Denver Broncos, and released. He also spent time with the New York Giants and the San Diego Chargers. Getting a look on practice squads was a valued opportunity, but not the real deal.
“There were definitely times in the first year, when you would get released and have no job for 3-4 weeks at a time… it was tough,” said Clabo. “You start wondering if you are going to have to do something else.”
But in 2005 Clabo was signed to the practice squad for the Falcons, and saw his first real game action in Atlanta in 2006. Over the next few years the Falcons made regular trips to the postseason… and Clabo became a successful professional football lineman. He was selected to the 2010 Pro Bowl.
“The NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” league. You can’t survive and stay in the league based on what you have done in the past.” said Clabo. “You have to improve each year or you’ll be out.”
Clabo knows the NFL is a business, and got more evidence to that fact when he was released by the Falcons this past April, two years into a five year deal (in the NFL, contracts are not guaranteed).
Clabo looked for a new home, and found one in Miami, signing a one year contract with the Dolphins back in May.
“When I went down for my visit, I talked with the coaching staff, and it felt like the right place.”
The Dolphins have a 3-2 record after their first five games, and Clabo feels that this team has a chance to be a contender in the AFC.
“We need to improve in multiple areas,” said Clabo. “There are multiple areas we can do that, but everyone is mentally right, and we can be successful.”
Clabo is part of the group protecting the future of the Dolphins franchise, second year quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
“He is very intense,” said Clabo. “But you have to be to play quarterback. He knows the offense inside and out, and is doing a fine job.”
Clabo’s career has taken him away from where he started, but he maintains a connection with Knox County. This summer he is planning to once again host an offensive lineman camp at Farragut.
“I get home every chance I get,” said Clabo. “I still have a lot of family and friends there.”