The week after the NFL draft is usually a busy one, with undrafted players being signed up as free agents. In past years, former Citadel defensive end Erik Clanton might have been one of the more than 400 free agents normally signed by an NFL team.
But with the NFL in lockout mode, one Canadian Football League team wasted little time in snapping up Clanton, a 6-3, 242-pounder who is projected as an outside linebacker in pro football.
About 15 minutes after the NFL draft ended on Saturday, Clanton had signed with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL. The Alouettes are headed by general manager Jim Popp, who coached at The Citadel under Charlie Taaffe from 1988-90.
Clanton, from Spring Valley High School in Columbia, had no qualms about signing with a CFL team, though his ultimate goal remains the NFL.
"With the lockout, there's no telling when it's going to be over," Clanton said Tuesday. "I'm not sitting around
and leaving things to chance. I'm ready to play football again.
"I'm very excited about it," he said, "and I take it as an opportunity to get better. Since there's no telling when the lockout is going to end, I'd rather go up there and play for a year and let all this blow over. Then next season, (the NFL) will want me that much more."
That's the plan, anyway. Last year, Clanton made 62 tackles for the Bulldogs, finishing tied for second in the Southern Conference in sacks (nine) and sixth in tackles for loss (14). He was the only Citadel player to make first-team All-Southern Conference.
Popp, who has been the Alouettes' general manager for 15 years, attended The Citadel's pro day in March, when Clanton worked out for scouts along with Bulldogs cornerback Cortez Allen and safety Demetrius Jackson.
Allen was taken in the fourth round of the NFL draft by the Steelers, while Clanton and Jackson went undrafted. But Clanton had caught the eye of the former Citadel assistant coach.
"At my pro day, (Popp) was saying that he would love to have me on his team," Clanton said. "He said he thought an NFL team would pick me up. As soon as he saw I was not picked up, he gave me a call."
Montreal is one of the CFL's most storied franchises, with two championships and seven Grey Cup appearances since 2000. Former Citadel defensive back Lester Smith played in the CFL from 1994-2001, including a stint with Montreal.
Clanton said he will report to camp in about a month. The CFL season runs from June through November.
The fledgling United Football League, entering its third season, is poised to pounce on players who were not drafted by the NFL. Among the 52 players taken it the UFL draft on Monday were Furman tackle Joel Bell (by Las Vegas) and Clemson defensive end Jamie Cumbie (by Omaha).