University of Alabama Crimson Tide
Dr. Phillips High School
Edgewater High School
The Crimson Tide has always been known for their exceptional athletes, especially in their secondary. Much like General Motors, it seems like every year they produce an elite product and this year's "model" is Clinton-Dix. One look at this well-built athlete and you can see a player that has the frame to add bulk and grow into linebacker-like proportions. When you factor in his quickness, range, lateral agility and man coverage skills, you can see why even a school like Alabama will be hard-pressed to replace him in the lineup.
While Clinton-Dix received lots of attention for his banner sophomore campaign in 2012, and rightfully so, his performance last season truly stands out. Do not be fooled by his statistical reduction in 2013 – this is an athlete that battled through a knee injury, finally undergoing the knife after the regular season in early December.
The free safety surprised the staff and teammates, along with shocking the Sooners, when he stepped on the field to face Oklahoma in the 2014 Sugar Bowl 31 days after having his meniscus repaired. In typical Clinton-Dix fashion, he not only delivered six tackles, but wreaked havoc in the backfield, delivering two of those stops behind the line of scrimmage.
With wide receivers in the National Football League getting bigger and bigger, teams recognize that Clinton-Dix can not only "do it all" at safety, but with his explosive burst out of his breaks, exceptional closing speed, fantastic ball instincts and fluid and crisp backfield quickness, he could also challenge those receivers one-on-one as a cornerback.
As good as Clinton-Dix is in pass coverage, he is equally effective in run support, evident by the way he harassed and chased down Sooners ball carriers in his final college game. With his size and wrap-up tackle technique, he has had very good success in taking on lead blockers, defeating the reach and cut blocks and slipping through trash to make the play.
Clinton-Dix came to the Capstone as one of the nation's elite safeties and most heralded recruits. He was rated the best safety in the nation according to Scout.com, ranking second by ESPNU. He attended Edgewater High School for his freshman and sophomore years, where he played running back, but before his junior season, he transferred to Dr. Phillips High School. It was at that school where he would earn All-American honors as a defensive back and kick returner.
During his junior campaign, Clinton-Dix recorded 93 tackles with six sacks, 13 stops-for-loss, nine pass breakups and three interceptions while causing three fumbles. He also averaged 20.3 yards per punt return and 74.5 yards on two kickoff returns with one touchdown. As a senior, he posted 112 tackles with four forced fumbles, two interceptions, six sacks and eight pass breakups while recording 10 tackles for loss.
On offense in 2010, Clinton-Dix rushed the ball 23 times for 244 yards and three touch-downs, averaging 10.6 yards per carry. He caught five passes for 156 yards for a team-best 31.2 yards per catch average while returning eight punts for 199 yards (24.9 avg and 11 kickoffs for 291 yards (26.5 avg).
That performance saw the five-star recruit be listed as the top player in the state of Florida by Scout.com. The consensus All-American was also named to the Orlando Sentinel's 2011 Central Florida Super 60, the Sentinel's Florida Top 100 and the Mobile Press-Register's Super Southeast 120 teams.
Clinton-Dix was one of seven true freshmen to letter for Alabama in 2011. He backed up both safety positions and also contributed on special teams, finishing the year with eleven tackles and a pair of pass deflections. He started 10 games at free safety as a sophomore, coming up with five interceptions and all four of his pass deflections came on third-down snaps. He also collected 37 tackles, with twenty of those hits coming in run support.
Clinton-Dix was forced to sit out two games during the 2013 season when the NCAA said he violated rules by accepting a hundred dollar loan from a staff assistant. But he was able to continue practicing during the suspension and stayed close to the program.
"With HaHa, he did a good job of staying into things when he was suspended,'' Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said. "He stayed in meetings, stayed and focused on what he had to do assignment-wise, didn't lose that focus. So when he was granted the ability to come back, he stayed in tune with things, was right back in the mix.''
It was later revealed that he was also playing with a torn meniscus in his knee, suffered while preparing to take on Auburn in the Iron Bowl. He somehow managed to play in the game, but underwent surgery shortly after. "I felt a lot of catching in my knee,'' Clinton-Dix said. "It was hurting very bad, but I just played through it. My teammates kept me up and motivated. I just kept going and tried not to think about it.
"(The surgery) went pretty well. Two-and-a-half weeks I was back running and I felt 100 percent. I felt good about it, during the first day of practice, I felt good breaking on it. It's been holding up pretty well for me."
The free safety returned triumphantly to face Oklahoma in the 2014 Sugar Bowl, concluding his junior campaign with 52 tackles (30 solos) while starting ten times. He made 3.5 stops-for-loss and picked off two passes while deflecting four others, but it would also bring an end to his college career.
Clinton-Dix met with head coach Nick Saban for "about an hour" shortly after the Sugar Bowl to discuss his future at Alabama. In Saban's hand was Clinton-Dix's evaluation from the NFL Draft Board. It told the junior safety what'd been expected ever since he made an acrobatic interception in Alabama's national championship victory over Notre Dame: He was first-round material.
The decision, though, wasn't as simple as it might have appeared. The alternative to going pro after three seasons at Alabama was also alluring. "I bought into the system since I was in high school," Clinton-Dix said shortly after he and three of his teammates announced their intentions to enter the NFL Draft. "Coach Saban told me if I came here and worked hard, I would be a great player and I could be three-and-done and conquer my dreams. I felt like I've done that. He told me I did. He said I worked hard.
"He also told me that if I stayed I could graduate and win all type of awards. It had its ups and downs in my decision-making but I think I made the right decision." One thing the safety plans on doing before 2014 training camp opens is to "put some meat on my bones."
"You really can't get physical during the training period part but I know I want to get a lot more physical, continue to work hard and get in that playbook as soon as possible."
Clinton-Dix said he wasn't inspired to leave early by the two-game suspension he served midway through the season for receiving an improper benefit. It was simply one chapter in the "big book" he wrote during three productive seasons at Alabama. "I didn't know if I was going to be able to continue to play good if I wasn't out there on the field," he said. "I was just glad that the NCAA came up with a two-game suspension and I was happy to be back with my teammates."
Clinton-Dix started 20-of-38 games for the Alabama Crimson Tide, intercepting seven passes that he returned for a total of 115 yards, as he also deflected 10 other throws…
Recorded 100 tackles (58 solos) with four stops behind the line of scrimmage, as he also caused one fumble.