Last August Mike Clare made a decision that he believed at the time to be a good one. In the midst of training camp with the Super Bowl champions at Bryant College, Clare decided he no longer desired to play professional football and left camp. Clare was placed on the Patriots reserve/left squad list and the athletic chapter of his life seemed to have come to an end.
For an unheralded offensive lineman out of Harvard, walking away from football at a time when he needed to be turning heads to even stay on the NFL radar screen would appear to mark the end of a career. But flash forward a little more than six months and Clare is getting a second shot at the NFL.
Earlier this week Clare was one of eight players allocated by the Patriots to spend the spring playing in NFL Europe. A name that most Patriots fans either never knew, or thought they would never hear again was suddenly back in the mix.
According to Clare's agent, Brad Blank, his client knew pretty much right away when he walked away from football last summer that he had made a mistake.
"He had a long year over in Europe last year and he had a good year over there," Blank said. "He played a full season and then came right back here to training camp. I think he just got overloaded."
"He then worked as a substitute teacher and got a dose of the real world and getting up at 6 a.m. to go to work," Blank added. "He knew right away that he had made a mistake and that he still wanted to play football."
According to Blank, Clare's long-term plans had included a Wall Street-type job, but he didn't actively pursue the path after he decided that he in fact still wanted to pursue his football career.
Since Clare's rights were still held by the Patriots, the organization was Blank's first stop in trying to get his client back into football.
"I called Scott [Pioli, Patriots Vice President of Player Personnel] and told him how contrite Mike was," Blank said. "Then Mike talked to Scott as well and they reinstated him. I really appreciate that they weren't vindictive and reinstated him. They could have held it against him or they could have released him to try to find another team, but they just reinstated him."
So just six months after seemingly ending his football career, Clare will again be playing for the Frankfurt Galaxy in this year's NFL Europe season, a place where he had success a year ago. The 6-3, 320-pound lineman had a successful season with the team in 2002 blocking for an offense that finished second in the league with 1,433 yards rushing. Clare and his fellow offensive lineman helped power running back Curtis Alexander to the league's second best rushing total of 831 yards.
And according to Blank, Clare is back within the ranks of an organization that had hopes for the young player just a short time ago.
"They were somewhat upset when Mike left," Blank said. "They thought he had a chance to make the team."
And whether Clare eventually makes the Patriots roster or not, he does have a second chance at life in the NFL. February 24 Clare will leave for NFL Europe training camp. Right now it is just NFL Europe but according to Blank, Clare is just happy to be playing again. Mike Clare has a second shot that a lot of people in his situation might not have been lucky enough to get.
Clare originally signed with the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2001 after a standout career at Harvard. In his college career the 2000 Harvard captain was a leader on the offensive line and was selected as First Team All-America as a senior. He started 30 straight games at left tackle over his final three seasons and led a line in 2000 that set school records for total offense, first downs and points. The offense ranked fifth in the nation that year. Clare was the team's MVP as a senior and did not allow a sack in either his junior or senior seasons.