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Christensen given chance to flourish

By SCOTT PURKS

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 17, 2000


TAMPA -- Royal Oak's freshman football team wasn't moving the ball too well, which had something to do with Clyde Christensen not taking snaps from center.

He was in a three-point stance next to center.

"Hard to believe, but it's true, I was an offensive guard," joked Christensen, who in 1972 was about 5 feet 6, 160 pounds. "Thankfully, Coach changed his mind after a few weeks."

Christensen became a Royal Oak quarterback, and for the next four years he was a star, guiding his team to a couple of undefeated seasons and championships in Covina, Calif.

He went on to earn All-America honors at Fresno City Junior College, then took over as quarterback at the University of North Carolina. After that, he was an assistant coach at several colleges before coming to the Bucs in 1996 with head coach Tony Dungy.

Christensen began with the Bucs as a tight ends coach, but now he's back to where he always seems to end up -- working with quarterbacks.

"Clyde was always a natural to the quarterback position," his father, Dick, said. "He was a field general from Day One, even as a freshman at Royal Oak High. He was a born leader."

But Clyde said that being the field general didn't overwhelm his thoughts at the time. Several other things were at work forming his outlook on life.

"It was also in those years that I began fully committing myself to being a Christian," he said. "And at the same time, I had such great models. My coaches showed me what kind of a positive influence a coach could have on a young man's life. Because of my coaches, I even started thinking at that time about possibly being a coach one day.

"Yes, those days at Royal Oak were very influential to me. Even though I was just a teenager, those days had a great impact on the person I am today."

Q: What facet of your past would you change if you could?

A: There have been some hard times in my life, but I wouldn't change anything because I've seen how God has used all the experiences, the good times and the hard times, to enrich my life.

Q: Did you ever see yourself coaching in the NFL?

A: I actually had no burning desire to be in the NFL. Coach Dungy came to me, and I love coach Dungy, so that had a lot to do with making the decision. I thought it would be a neat challenge, so I took it, and it has been great, and I wouldn't trade the experience.

But it really doesn't matter to me whether I'm coaching high school or in the NFL because I just love coaching and teaching. I truly don't get any bigger goose bumps coaching at a high school or at Raymond James Stadium. If I ended up coaching high school again, that would be fine with me.

I treat the (Bucs players) the same as I've coached anybody else on any other level. I treat them with dignity and respect, and I keep teaching, and because of all that, I feel a sense of purpose by making players better.

SUPER BOWL VI

Jan. 16, 1972

New Orleans

Cowboys 24, Dolphins 3

MVP: Roger Staubach, Cowboys quarterback (12-of-19 for 119 yards and two touchdowns).

IN THE NEWS: February: President Nixon visits Communist China for eight days, meeting Mao Zedong. March 24: Britain takes over direct rule of Northern Ireland. June 17: Police arrest five men attempting to bug the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex at Washington, D.C. Sept. 5: 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics are killed after eight members of an Arab terrorist group invade the Olympic Village; five guerrillas and one policeman also are killed.

BEST PICTURE OSCAR: The French Connection

MUSIC OF THE MOMENT: Harvest/Neil Young

EVERYBODY'S WATCHING: The Waltons

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