By Thomas Sellers Jr.
It is such a tradition that you will find the eldest Tommy Clifton riding a mower keeping the field in top condition. And for one more season, Tommy Clifton III will sport the black and gold once worn by his grandfather and father.
2019 marks the senior campaign for Clifton. It was 2016 when the youngest Tommy took over the starting quarterback roles his freshman year.
“It feels great being around these guys the past three years, Markees Flowers, Verdo Young, Melo Thomas,” Clifton said. “We’ve all grown up together in this same stadium. Time goes by and it flies, I’m very grateful and very blessed to be in this spot today with my guys. We’re ready to surprise some people for our senior year.”
Clifton and the Trojans surprised some experts last season earning the Region 8-4A title. The signal caller got a chance to celebrate the milestone on his home field with teammates.
The tears of joys running off his freckle cheeks onto the golden turf, the familiar grounds Tommy has known for years. Clifton first played a game on Mooney Boswell field as a fourth grader vs. Southwind for SYS.
On Friday nights, he was willing and able to be the ball boy and grab water for the varsity Trojans. His grandfather Coach Tommy Clifton and father Tommy Clifton II taught Tommy the importance of Trojan traditions, the meaning of the black and gold and having love for Millington Football.
The eldest Clifton was an All-Shelby Metro player in the 1960s. Then in the early 1990s, his son was a full back on the first 10-0 Trojan Football squad.
“It felt great because it really motivated me knowing I had something to live up to,” Tommy III said. “I can’t let people down. I have to put up for the name and show what the Cliftons are all about, because we do it different around here in Millington.
“There was pressure when I was younger going into my freshman year,” he said of expectations. “But over the years I’ve grown through it and learn how to exactly deal with the pressure.”
It was a setback that prevailed Clifton to a new level of comfort in his role as the quarterback of the Trojans. It was the third quarter of a contest against the Germantown Red Devils in Millington his sophomore year when Clifton suffered a shoulder injury.
“Showed me how to be a true leader,” he noted. “My freshman year I wasn’t the best or biggest leader I could have been. I was so young and still learning the ropes. My sophomore year it was starting the same way and then I got hurt.
“I was out for the rest of the season but I came out here that night I set down and had a moment,” Tommy added. “I talked to God and He showed me exactly what I needed to do. I needed to still be there for the guys and keep them up. Although we didn’t win much, I was still out here behind them.”
Clifton got to know his teammates on all levels. He emerged as a verbal leader in the locker room as well. Then his performance on the field reached new heights in 2018.
“Chemistry, we wanted it more,” he noted. “Last year we had more experience around the ball. We bonded and we knew how to work together. We knew what we had to do in order to get better. We grew around each other and led each other.”
Know Clifton is ready to combine championship experience with improved chemistry in 2019. Repeating as Region 8-4A champions will put Tommy is a lifelong debate with his grandfather and father as most successful Clifton.
“It’s very important for the team to repeat,” he said. “We’ve been talking about it since day one and Coach KJ, ‘Repeat, back to back.’
“What it is going to take is the older guys leading and the more experienced guys stepping up showing the younger guys what it takes,” Clifton added. “We have to lead and show everybody the ropes. If we go back to back, then we can go back to back to back. I want to leave the program in a better place.”
Clifton said he will embrace every moment of wearing the black and gold as a player for one more year.
“Every day I have to push them,” he concluded. “I will give 100 percent in every rep. We need to be in good shape. Most guys won’t be coming off the field offense and defense. We have to give 100 percent every rep and be in the best shape we can be. And communicating is key.”