Chase Claypool was about to go out the front door of his family’s Langley home on Sunday afternoon, May 10, when his mother, Jasmine, intercepted him.
“No,” she said, firmly.
Her 6 ft. 4 inch, 238-pound son didn’t ask any questions and did as he was told.
After all, it was Mother’s Day.
“Believe me, it was my day and he had to listen,” Jasmine said later, smiling.
A few minutes afterwards, her dutiful son heard horns honking, and this time, he was allowed to go outside and see a surprise parade in his honour, passing by.
More than 30 vehicles took part, many of them familiar faces; coaches, friends, and family members.
They were decorated with balloons and messages of encouragement for Claypool, who had just signed to play with the legendary Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL.
“Oh my God,” a delighted Claypool said, calling the parade “super cool.”
In an interview before the surprise unfolded, Claypool smiled when he talked about how he has often been overlooked in his career, and how he has overcome it.
“I’ve been doing that my whole life,” he told the Langley Advance Times.
Claypool, who grew up playing in Abbotsford and for now, calls Langley home, recalls being a “low-exposure” player in secondary school – a situation that inspired him to work that much harder to get recognition.
His motto became “create opportunities and persevere.”
He went on to have a storied run with the Abbotsford Panthers senior varsity football team, leading the club to a provincial final game in 2015 and also being named the AA football player of the year that season.
As a Canadian football player, there was “not a very big spotlight at all” on him as far as U.S. college teams were concerned, so Claypool took matters into his own hands, posting his high school highlights on Facebook.
That got him to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, where he flourished.
Claypool was Notre Dame’s leading receiver in 2019 with 66 catches for 1,037 yards and 13 TDs.
He has 150 career receptions for 2,159 yards and 19 touchdowns.
On April 23, he was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round of the NFL draft, the 17th player taken in the round, 49th overall.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 25, 2020
“I’m super excited,” Claypool said about joining a team he’s followed since he was a kid, noting the Steelers have “a long history of developing receivers.”
He was reluctant to discuss the details of the contract, other than to say, it was online and “public knowledge.”
One website that tracks NFL contracts put the Claypool deal at $6.6 million US.
After he was signed, Claypool posted a video of some career highlights online that appeared to refer to his mom, Jasmine, writing “she’ll never have to work another day in her life.”
“She’ll never have to work another day in her life” pic.twitter.com/DERhkXZp3E
— Chase Claypool (@ChaseClaypool) April 24, 2020
In several interviews, Claypool has described how his drive to excel was fuelled by the untimely death of his 17-year-old sister, Ashley, who took her own life.
Claypool, who was 13 when it happened, bears a tattoo on his right arm that reads: “A thousand words won’t bring you back. I know, because I tried. Neither will a thousand tears. I know, because I’ve cried. Until we meet again.”
Hear my story.
Feel my motivation.
See my journey.
This weekend it all comes together pic.twitter.com/LfZrRAIsKP
— Chase Claypool (@ChaseClaypool) April 19, 2020
In an interview posted to the Steelers website, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly described how Claypool matured into a reliable player who can be counted on to make the big plays where they are needed most.
“If you look at our games, when it was on the line, Chase Claypool made the plays necessary for us to be successful,” Kelly described. “Chase stepped up and made the big plays when we needed him.”
— Chase Claypool (@ChaseClaypool) April 29, 2020
Claypool joins a Steelers offence in search of another playmaker following an eventful 2019 when the Steelers finished 8-8 after losing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a right elbow injury at halftime of Week 2.
Roethlisberger, who turned 38 last month, is on schedule for a full recovery from surgery.
Claypool gives Pittsburgh a big target on the outside to complement JuJu Smith-Schuster. This is the third time in four years the Steelers have used their second-round selection on a wide receiver.
More photos from the surprise parade can be seen online.