One of the first signees of Mike Bloomgren’s tenure, left tackle Clay Servin has been a mainstay for the Owls and an easy pick for our 2023 Rice Football Iron Man.
Mike Bloomgren was hired as Rice football head coach on December 5, 2017. Two weeks later, the first-ever Early Signing Period opened and programs across the nation were permitted to sign high school players for the upcoming season in December rather than in February. As a first-year head coach taking over a one-win program, the Owls’ first class was small, with just five players announced on the opening day.
Four of those five players transferred before their senior season. The fifth, offensive lineman Clay Servin, stuck with the program for the long haul, sticking with Rice football from that point onward through the next six seasons. In the era of the Transfer Portal which has made player movement more possible than ever before, Servin has been the rock Rice football has built on for more than half a decade.
“I think coach Bloomgren and the staff in 2018 here at Rice kind of took a chance on me and I’m extremely grateful for that,” Servin said, whose only offer during the recruiting process came from Rice.
Servin made his collegiate debut midway through his freshman season against UAB and his first start the following weekend against FIU. Six years later he started his final game in the First Responders Bowl against Texas State, his 56h career appearance in a Rice uniform, a program record.
“I don’t know if I can put in any quantitative terms, the value of a guy like Clay Servin being here in year six,” head coach Mike Bloomgren said of the veteran offensive lineman.
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Servin surpasses former teammate Shea Baker, who tied the previous record (55 appearances) last season in the Lending Tree Bowl. He is also one of three Owls, alongside running back Juma Otoviano and running back Ari Broussard, who came into Rice with that original 2018 class and played into their sixth season of college football.
That track record gives Servin a unique perspective. Whereas quarterback AJ Padgett has now started back-to-back bowl games in his first two seasons on campus, Servin remembers how things were when we arrived and, of equal importance, why he stayed.
“I wanted to be a part of a program that took nothing into something,” Servin said. “I wanted to be a part of a program that built a legacy, especially as we transition into the American.”
That growth took buy in from Servin, who talked about his internal conflict and decision to recommit himself mentally following a challenging 2020 COVID season, drawing inspiration from teammates like Baker and center Isaac Klarkowski.
He coordinated meetings with the offensive line during the summers, taking younger players under his wing and teaching them the ins and outs of the position and the program before they were allowed to spend time with coaches directly. His voice and his imprint on the program were unmistakable.
“It was really about leaving a legacy with Rice football and showing these young guys in the program, regardless of how hard the academics here are, regardless of the names and other conferences that we are a good football team,” Servin said. “We put our pads on the same way as those five-star guys in the SEC and the Big XII. We are a good football team that can compete.”
In his final season, Servin’s squad reached its highest win in the past decade of Rice football. An offensive lineman at heart, Bloomgren summed up Servin’s impact well. “He’s seen so many things change throughout this program and he’s been a big part of that change, and part of us winning,” he said.
When the 2024 season kicks off, Rice football will have to break in a non-Clay Servin left tackle for the first time in six years. Perhaps that truth conveys his importance to this program better than anything else.
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