Courtesy of David Schamis

When looking at the numbers put up by defensive lineman Clay Patterson ’24 in 2021, it is not surprising that he was named to the Buck Buchanan Watch List for being the best defensive player in the FCS.

As a senior at Frisco Reedy High School in 2018, Patterson put together a season of defensive dominance that saw 13 sacks, 76 tackles and 22 tackles for loss. After deciding to take his talents to New Haven with the Blue and White, Patterson served as a reserve defensive lineman in 2019 with the expectation that he would enter the defensive line rotation in 2020.

This expectation would not become a reality until 2021 following the COVID-19-cut 2020 season. When Ivy football made its highly anticipated return in September of this year, it did not take long for Patterson to show Ancient Eight offensive coordinators that he was more than deserving of a starting spot on the defensive line. 

A week after notching two sacks in the season’s Ivy League opener against Cornell, the Texas native would go on to have a performance for the ages, securing a game-high nine solo tackles and four sacks against Lehigh University — earning him Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week​​ honors.

“I think that, as a whole, our defense played great against Lehigh,” Patterson said when asked to comment on his performance. “My goal personally is just to play hard every play. When you pay hard, good things will happen. On the [defensive] line we do a lot of movement on third downs. We also have a lot of different guys, whether it be the ends or interior linemen, working to get others on the line open. It just goes to show how we have a lot of trust in each other, since we expect the person who’s open on the play to execute.” 

Since then, Patterson has gone on to register a total of 11.5 sacks in the eight games he has started — three more than the next closest player in the Ivy League. He leads all other Ancient Eight players with 12.5 tackles for loss and is ranked fourth in the nation with 1.36 sacks per game. 

On the year, Patterson has compiled a total of 42 tackles, good for 22nd in the league, and has been one of the driving forces behind a Bulldog defense that has put together one of highest efficiency ratings in the Ancient Eight. 

“Clay [Patterson] has done an amazing job of growing week in and week out,” Reno said after the Lehigh matchup. “You can see how he’s been playing more freely and more confidently as the season has been progressing. He’s a very athletic interior defensive lineman and has a skillset that’s really tough to handle if you’re an offensive lineman.” 

Patterson will be in action at 12 p.m. this Saturday for the 137th rendition of The Game.

Jared Fel currently serves as a sports staff reporter covering football, baseball, and hockey for the Yale Daily News. Originally from Ossining, New York, he is a rising junior in Saybrook College majoring in Cognitive Science.