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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

March 26, 2010 at 1:25 AM

Catching up with James Clifford

One thing I was able to do while helping cover the Mariners at spring training last week was talk to James Clifford, a former UW linebacker who was a key member of the 1991 national title team.
But a quick look at him these days might make Clifford’s former life hard to imagine,
“I’m a little bit smaller,” said Clifford, who played at UW from 1988-92 and was the first winner of the Earle T. Glant Tough Husky Award in 1989. “I don’t have to keep the beef on like I did back then. I’m probably down 20-25 pounds.”
And being in shape is basically Clifford’s job these days.
He is officially the Mariners’ minor league strength and conditioning coordinator, having worked for the team since 1997 (also a baseball player for UW, he played briefly in the Mariners’ minor league system).
“Did I think I’d be here that long?,” he says, repeating a question. “I don’t know. But it’s worked out pretty good, I think.”
In fact, it was an injury during Clifford’s UW football career that set him on his current path.
Clifford led the Pac-10 in tackles in 1989 but then suffered an ACL injury prior to the 1990 season, a turn of events that helped lead to his current occupation.
“When I was rehabbing that I got interested in what’s going on with knees and bodies and I got to work with Rick Huegli (a former Husky strength coach) who is a mentor of mine,” he said. “It was something that at that point, it was something I kind of knew I wanted to do.”
His job with the Mariners is to oversee the entire performance program at the minor league level. He lives year-round in Peoria and works with the minor leaguers during training camp.
Once camp breaks, he often travels to all of the Mariners’ minor league clubs “to make sure things are going the way they need to be and update programs.”
He may not travel as much this year, however, as the new Mariner regime is making some
changes in the team’s conditioning programs. “Sometimes when you travel a lot you get caught up in that area,” he said. “I want to take a broader look to see how everything is going.”
He’s had chances to move on, but considers himself still a Northwest guy and hasn’t found anything yet worth leaving the Mariners.
He keeps up with UW football as much as he can, attending UW games in Arizona and sometimes making trips home.
Married with three daughters ages 10, 8 and 5, he says he still keeps in touch with UW teammates such as Dave Hoffman, Brett Collins and Steve Emtman, among others.
And like many others around the program, he’s optimistic about where the Huskies seem headed under Steve Sarkisian.
“I think he’s doing a great job,” Clifford said. “I’m excited about how he’s bringing the alumni back. He seems like the type of you could just sit down and have a discussion with and he would welcome that. That’s what you need, someone to make you feel comfortable. And that’s not just the alumni but the players there now. And he seems like that kind of person.”

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