Altoona native Brant Clouser is hoping to put more of his versatility on display in an NFL training camp later this summer.
Clouser, who spent last preseason with the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants, is currently the starting center for the Jacksonville Sharks of the Arena Football League. Clouser played guard during his career at Villanova University and in the Giants' training camp in 2011.
"This is definitely helping me be more versatile,'' Clouser said during a recent phone interview. "I'm hoping to go into an NFL camp and play some center. The more you can do in the NFL, the better your chances are of making a roster.''
Brant Clouser is playing for Jacksonville in the Arena Football League.
Clouser not only had to adjust to a new position in the Arena League but also a new brand of football. He started out by joining the Orlando Predators in February, but the entire team was fired before their first game due to the threat of a players strike.
He then signed with the Sharks in late April and has played in 10 games for the team, which is currently 8-8 with two weeks remaining in the regular season.
"He's done a good job for us,'' Sharks coach Les Moss said. "There are a couple things he's got to work on, but as far as his strength and getting the ball up, he's been solid. We haven't had any problem with fumbled snaps or anything, so he's done a good job with that.''
The Arena game is much different from the NFL - the field is 50 yards instead of 100, and it's an 8-on-8 game. Rules also limit the amount of defenders who can blitz, and the games tend to be passing heavy and high scoring.
"In Arena football, I had to get used to snapping the ball and having a guy right on you,'' Clouser said. "You have to get back and get ready to go. I think it's helping me get better as a player because I have to deal with the nose [tackle]. It's helping me get set and picking up different stunts.''
Clouser, 23, is hoping by playing in the Arena League it will keep him in shape and also help him get noticed by an NFL team. He played in three preseason games with the Giants last year and was one of the team's final cuts before the regular season began.
While the Giants went on to defeat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, the 6-foot-3, 315-pound Clouser returned to his hometown and plotted his next career move. Clouser was an all-state lineman at Altoona Area High School and the Mirror's Athlete of the Year in 2006 before embarking on a successful four-year career at Villanova.
"I was glad for the Giants,'' he said. "They're a good organization, and I made some friends there, mostly with the linemen. They said they liked me as a player when they released me but said it was a numbers thing. They told me to just keep working.''
A recent Sharks game was televised live on the NFL Network, and Clouser said coaches from the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars attended one of the Sharks' games. He said the fan support has been strong in Jacksonville - "they can get pretty crazy,'' he said. - and the league is competitive. Clouser, who majored in criminal justice and sociology at Villanova, said some of the Arena players take on second jobs, but he hasn't yet due to his lack of major bills.
"Guys in the Arena League come from all over,'' he said. "Some have played in the league and want to keep playing. Some are guys like me who have been to NFL camps, and it's another way to keep in shape. Other guys just love to play.''
Clouser said family and friends attended a Sharks game in Philadelphia against the Soul in May. He expects more to travel to Pittsburgh on Friday, July 20 when the Sharks wrap up the regular season against the Pittsburgh Power at Consol Energy Center.
The Sharks, currently fourth in the American Conference, host the Predators this weekend, and if they are able to beat the Predators (3-13) and the Power (4-12), they will earn one of eight league playoff berths. ArenaBowl XXV is scheduled for Aug. 10 in New Orleans.
The increased exposure should help Clouser's chances of getting a call from an NFL team.
"I think someone will contact me,'' Clouser said. "I'll have to wait until camp opens, and hopefully I'll get a call. Right now, I just want to keep playing.''