QB Michael Claverie steady force for Live Oak

Advocate file photo by HEATHER McCLELLAND -- Live Oak quarterback Michael Claverie hstill passed for 1,100 yards last season, despite missing the first two games with a virus.
Advocate file photo by HEATHER McCLELLAND -- Live Oak quarterback Michael Claverie hstill passed for 1,100 yards last season, despite missing the first two games with a virus.

A 36-year-old quotation describes Live Oak High’s Michael Claverie pretty well.

In late 1977, legendary New York Yankees manager Billy Martin praised veteran player Chris Chambliss by saying, “Reggie (Jackson) might be Mr. October, but Chambliss — that guy was Mr. Season.”

Claverie is Mr. Seasons for the Class 5A Eagles. He is best known as the slick-fielding shortstop who helped LOHS finish as the Class 5A baseball runner-up last spring.

The 6-foot, 180-pound senior-to-be is preparing for his third season as Live Oak’s starting quarterback. He’s not expecting to shatter many football records. Taking down some stereotypes and opponents is plenty enough.

“Steady is the word that describes Michael,” LOHS baseball coach/assistant football coach Greg Briggs said. “He’s just steady in everything he does, whether its football, baseball or as a student. He works hard at what he does, and he does it well.”

A baseball analogy, even an old one, suits Claverie. He wants to play college baseball and after hitting .376 with 12 doubles and 27 RBIs last spring he figures to get that chance. Yes, he’s an honor student.

That goal, however, won’t make Claverie back away from leading the Eagles as a quarterback.

“I’m just competitive, and I always have been,” Claverie said. “No matter what I’m doing, I want to be the best at it. There’s just something about it when you get out there and compete. When you win, it’s the best feeling ever. You prove yourself.”

That applied even when the contest was something Claverie didn’t know he could win —– LOHS’ quarterback job two years ago. LOHS head football coach Tut Musemeche knew what he was looking for.

“He was a wide receiver as a ninth-grader and played that position all his life,” Musemeche said. “He was one of three guys we looked at in the spring, and he was third string.

“But you could look at him and see something there. You could tell he was competitive. And you could see he was a leader and that the other players respected him. When you’ve got a guy with all that, you can train him to be a quarterback. That’s what we did.”

Many quarterbacks are groomed for years to play the position. Some attend specialized camps and have private tutors. Claverie had Musemeche, the other LOHS coaches and his teammates.

He beat the odds by helping lead the Eagles to their first Class 5A playoff berth in 2012 and passed for over 1,000 yards in a spread wing-T offense.

Talk about a stereotype- buster. But then there was last season.

A virus sidelined Claverie for the first two games. He lost a substantial amount of weight, but still finished with 1,100 passing yards. The Eagles lost some steam during the season too and wound up finishing 4-6 and out of the running for a playoff berth.

“Last season was tough for everybody,” Claverie said. “It was tough for me because I didn’t want to let anyone down.

“Doing what we did in baseball was huge. I think it’s carrying over to football. We’ve got a lot of guys back on offense. Everybody is confident.”

Claverie will team with junior running backs Jordan Sellers and Will Higginbotham this fall. Higginbotham accounted for 820 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns last season.

All three backfield mates have improved, according to Claverie, who improved his 40-yard dash time from 5.0 seconds to a 4.82. He also played summer baseball and is hoping to get some scholarship offers in the months ahead.

“(Claverie) is one of four or five guys who didn’t play a down in the spring because of the baseball playoffs,” Musemeche said. “To be honest with you, that experience, being able to succeed on a high level, is probably worth more than spring practice.

“Michael brings that confidence with him. Because he’s gotten faster, he should be able to make some plays with his feet, which would be huge.”

Briggs said Claverie took the Eagles’ loss to traditional power Barbe in last spring’s 5A baseball final tougher than most players and can be hard on himself.

The focus for the fall is simple — find a way to be hard on other football teams.

“We can use the experience from last spring in baseball,” Claverie said.

“We went so far and you want to take it that extra step in baseball. We want to win in football too.”