Todd Clever is RUGBYMag’s Men’s Player of the Year, and he earns the awards for several reasons:
His consistency, his perseverance, his defense, and his leadership.
Clever is one of a group of USA players who are playing extremely well and doing so pretty much every game – Samu Manoa, Scott LaValla, Chris Wyles, and Andrew Suniula are the others.
Of those, Manoa and LaValla miss out on this award in part because they missed out on some USA games. Wyles and Suniula were very close, but the awards goes to Clever partly because of defense.
The USA Men’s National Team didn’t have the best of years. The Eagles lost eight games in a row before finishing the year on an up note with victories over Georgia and Russia.
But most of those games were close, and while the USA offense struggled, there were elements to be positive about on defense. In only two games did their defense really let them down, and Clever didn’t play in one of them. In the other eight games this year, they averaged 18.5 points against.
Todd Clever was a big part of that, especially late in the season when, thanks to the emergence of Cam Dolan at No. 8, he moved to blindside flanker.
That move took a few of a No. 8’s responsibilities away from Clever, and allowed his natural game – that of a hunter-killer type of defense and as a support runner on offense – to shine through.
“I have moved all around the back row for the last decade, for me it doesn't matter what number I have on my jersey - 6,7 or 8 – in all those positions your work ethic has a chance to shine,” Clever told RUGBYMag.com recently. “A big part of my game is working harder than my opponents and that starts with the classroom, extra gym and field sessions, skill sessions, etc. Also it doesn't hurt if you’re a bit of a maniac!”
Through the difficult times this past spring, Clever was a consistent presence on a team that had lost its way a little bit. He demanded more of the players, as well he should as captain. He did not mince words with them, and has been clear in public, too, that earlier performances weren’t good enough. While Clever could have been satisfied with his own play, he wasn’t, and helped pull the Eagles with him.
Looking ahead, there’s more work to do, but Clever doesn’t mince words here, either.
“The recent personal changes from the staff to the players have been positive for the team,” Clever said. “The new blood in the team has freshened up the attitude and really gave us a big boost. The team is in a good space right now, coming off a great November. We have to take that momentum into March and the summer.”