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December 31, 2012
Slay visits Tech fan battling real adversity
'Adversity' is a word that is frequently used when discussing organized athletics. Players that play through an injury or teams that win despite mistakes are praised for overcoming adversity.
In the context of sports, the use of the word is accurate. In the context of real life, adversity on the field or court is woefully insignificant. Jayson Clanton -- a 20-year-old die-hard Texas Tech fan -- knows a thing or two about real adversity.
Jayson was born with cystic fibrosis -- a debilitating genetic disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and pancreas -- and that was just the beginning of his ill fortune.
When Jayson was just one-year-old, his mother gave up her parental rights and disappeared completely from his life, leaving Jayson in the custody of his biological father. Jayson spent the next two years of his life living in a car with his father -- who refused to stop smoking despite Jayson's cystic fibrosis -- and a dog.
Jayson's luck eventually began to turn. The state of Texas removed him from his father's care and placed him in foster care. Shortly after, he was adopted and became the newest member of the Clanton family.
"My sister was working at a day care and he was a child there, that's how it all happened," Greg Clanton said of Jayson's adoption. "She told them about him and my parents decided to go ahead and adopt him and give him a home."
Jayson's affinity for the Red Raiders grew thanks to Greg, his adopted brother.
"I went to Tech in 2001 and began to brainwash him," Greg said. "He used to sit on the mailbox and wait when he knew I was coming home and watch the morning news to see what the weather was like in Lubbock to report to my Dad.
"I had him out for his first game my first year there when he was around eight. The kid came into the game with no shirt and fake Tech tattoos on!"
Jayson received some discouraging news about his health issues late in 2012 so, with Christmas right around the corner, Greg wanted to do something special for his younger brother.
Greg turned to the message boards at RedRaiderSports.com and asked if any of the thousands of Tech fans who visit the site daily knew former Red Raider safety and 2005 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Dwayne Slay, Jayson's favorite player.
Greg relayed part of Jayson's story and asked if anyone knew of a way to get a football signed by Slay. He even offered to pay.
"He was always a fan of big hits," Greg said. "That was always one of his favorite parts of the game and, obviously, Dwayne provided plenty of those. He started noticing him and Slay became his favorite player."
RedRaiderSports.com subscribers quickly responded and, in less than three hours, the wheels were in motion for a very special holiday moment.
With the help of Corey Cheek -- a RRS subscriber, Tech alum and a personal friend of Slay -- the plan was to surprise Jayson with a personal visit from his favorite Texas Tech football player.
In the days leading up to the event, Greg Clanton depicted the magnitude of how much the visit was going to mean to his younger brother.
"I remember on his Facebook page, when he was a younger kid, he had me, my dad and Dwayne Slay as his heroes," he said. "You would think it would be (Michael) Crabtree, (Graham) Harrell, B.J. Symons or one of those guys, but it always was and has been Slay."
Less than two weeks later, on the Sunday before Christmas, Dwayne Slay -- accompanied by Cheek and the author -- pulled up to the Clanton home. The entire family was gathered inside, with Jayson completely unaware of what was about to happen.
Slay was greeted at the door by Greg, who then calls to Jayson and tells him that there is someone at the front door he needs to meet.
Seconds later, a young man, decked out in a Texas Tech jersey, hat and even his undershirt -- his typical, regular everyday attire -- emerged from the house with a curious look on his face.
"Dwayne Slay," Slay announced with a smile on his face, reaching his hand out. "Nice to meet you, Jayson. How are you doing buddy?"
Disbelief, surprise, excitement and confusion all seemed to simultaneously take over Jayson while he grasped the reality that one of his biggest idols was at his front door to see him.
For the next couple of hours, Jayson and Slay hung out, took pictures, ate a little food and reminisced about Slay's playing days. The 2005 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year shared stories ranging from a two-hour Mike Leach pregame speech about pirates to Slay's 2006 Cotton Bowl ring and, of course, his de-cleating of Kansas State quarterback Allan Evridge.
"This is the best Christmas present ever," Jayson said several times throughout the night.
Jayson's face was pasted with smile so big throughout the day that his family joked his jaw would be sore in the morning. Pictures of the two posing together with a newly autographed football were up on Facebook within minutes.
"I have about seven likes in two minutes," Jayson announced excitedly after checking his Facebook page.
As their time together that evening wound down, Slay offered words of encouragement to Jayson, pumping him up, requesting that he stay strong in prayer and keep fighting every day. By the end of the night, they were friends on Facebook and interacting online with likes and comments on pictures and status updates.
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