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FOOTBALL: Clayton Birdsall overcomes injury to get to Bemidji State

One of the reasons that the Beavers saw Clayton Birdsall as a fit is because of similar blocking schemes at Alexandria and Bemidji State.

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Alexandria senior Clayton Birdsall (62) sheds the block of Robbinsdale Cooper's Rich Lahr during the Class 5A state quarterfinals on Nov. 13, 2021. Birdsall has committed to play at Bemidji State.
Eric Morken / Forum News Service
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ALEXANDRIA -- Clayton Birdsall and his family moved from Big Lake to Alexandria ahead of the 2020-21 school year.

Birdsall was a junior at the time and figured to be in the mix to see plenty of playing time along the lines. But before the season, Birdsall tore his meniscus in his left knee and missed the entirety of the 2020 season.

“I didn't get to play at all,” Birdsall said. “I tried a couple times, but never was able to actually go on the field.”

Over the summer, Birdsall was playing baseball and working out at football camps, but he said he wasn’t 100% in the early parts of those activities. He made his way back with physical therapy and working out, all while trying to gain the attention of college football programs.

“So (recruiting) really slowed down (during the injury) and not a lot happened with it until this year,” he said. “I had a pretty good year and I still wasn't getting recruited a lot, but I was able to get the attention of Bemidji State.”

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He did so by bouncing back strongly from his injury, serving as a key part of an Alexandria team that started 1-4 to the 2021 season but had a strong finish. The Cardinals ended the regular season at 3-5 but made a furious run through the Section 8-5A playoffs, taking home the title and qualifying for the state tournament -- even on his future home turf at Chet Anderson Stadium.

Birdsall announced his verbal commitment to BSU on Jan. 9.

Prior to his recent visit to Bemidji, Birdsall said he had never been to a Bemidji State game. But one of the reasons that the Beavers saw him as a fit is because of similar blocking schemes at Alexandria and BSU.

“There were called plays (this season) like outside zone and our sweep and stuff where I was able to actually pull from the center position and get outside and block, and that's a lot of their plays,” Birdsall said. “They like my speed off the ball, my aggression, and athleticism to get out in space and make blocks while pulling and snapping the ball.”

Birdsall earned all-section and all-district honors in 2021, and he was named Alexandria’s most valuable offensive lineman. He anchored an offensive line that helped the Cardinals average 32.9 points a game behind 112 rushing yards and 212.2 passing yards.

He also played a little on the defensive side of the ball, racking up 13 total tackles, four tackles for loss and a sack.

Birdsall played on both sides of the ball at the beginning and end of the season, but only played on offense in the middle part of the season due to swelling in his left knee.

“I think I was limited to that a little bit because of the knee thing. After the first game, it kind of swelled up,” he said. “So I stopped playing both sides of the ball for a couple of games, and then it picked up again then during the playoffs when I played a lot of both sides.”

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The 2021 season was Birdsall's first playing at center as he moved inside from left tackle.

“I've definitely put in a lot of work over the years and this has always been a goal for me since I was younger,” he said. “It's always been a big thing. I've always loved football. I've always worked hard at it and it's awesome to see it pay off. But I wouldn’t have been able to do it without God and my family. So I just appreciate everyone that supported me through the football journey.”

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