Clay Gets Second Chance at the CFL
Hilo High School graduate Charles Clay is hoping that his latest chance in the Canadian Football League will last more than just a few weeks.
Clay, a former college football player with Southern Methodist University and the University of Hawai’i, signed a two-year deal this week to play for the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the CFL. It will put him on the same team as CFL star Chad Owens, who joined Hamilton in the offseason after spending many years with the Toronto Argonauts.
It has been a long road for Clay, who has had opportunities at different professional levels since his time at Hawai’i, including a brief stint with the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League, a short stretch with the Ottawa Redblacks in the CFL, and a few games with the L.A. KISS of the Arena Football League. Most recently, he was selected to participate in the inaugural season of Major League Football.
Two years removed from his time at UH, however, Clay realizes he can’t keep going from chance to chance expecting to make his career last.
“It’s exactly what I need at this point in my career,” Clay said in a phone interview from Los Angeles. “I need to make this stick. I need to ride it out. Hopefully, I can play for them as many years as they want me to and as long as I can because I want to be stuck somewhere already.”
His first stint in the CFL came at the end of 2014 with Ottawa. It didn’t lead to game time, but there were signs of potential when they had him practicing at the Will Linebacker position, which is where Hamilton plans to play him. Things changed after a four-week stretch at that position.
“When they brought me into minicamp, they [Ottawa] moved me to safety, which helped to get me cut,” Clay recalled. “It was a factor in getting me released.”
Clay played at the Jack Linebacker position with the KISS for four games last season in the AFL before injuring his foot. The Will position, however, is a spot that Clay enjoys getting a chance to play at.
“I was having a blast playing at the Will because with my speed, I was able to see the gap and shoot it,” said Clay about his short time getting reps at the position.
Clay still has to make it through training camp if he hopes to see playing time north of the mainland border. He has support along the way, including Jeff Reinebold, former University of Hawai’i coach who now coaches special teams and linebackers for Hamilton.
“He’s been pivotal in helping me get in here,” said Clay of his former coach. “He knows what kind of man I am, and I know what kind of man he is. We both know that we can feed off of each other.”
Also currently on the Hamilton roster is former Hawai’i receiver Kealoha Pilares and former Saint Louis High School quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.
Training camp in the CFL opens up next month, and preseason games get underway in early July.