STARKVILLE • There’s not a lot of glitz or glamour in the life of a walk-on student-athlete.
They have all the same demands as their full scholarship teammates but are still required to pay their own way through school – leaving many with a mountain of student loan debt by the time their careers are completed.
Mississippi State guard Tate Clayton, from Tupelo, has received a helping hand at erasing some of those concerns in the form of a $15,000 scholarship from the Club Trillion Foundation.
“It’s going to pay off the majority of my student loans so I won’t have hardly any debt,” Clayton said. “I’m wanting to go to law school after this, so it’s a huge help to me.”
The Club Trillion Foundation was established by Mark Titus, a former walk-on basketball player at Ohio State who is now a successful college basketball podcast host for Fox Sports and Westwood One.
The scholarship is awarded to a walk-on Division I basketball player who showcases work ethic on and off the court along with community service and academics and also has a financial need.
Clayton learned about the scholarship from his older brother, Reed, and began the application process in February. He had to write an essay and send in a list of references and after being named a finalist, he was voted by the scholarship committee made up of 11 former walk-ons as its inaugural winner last week.
“I knew it would be a long shot because it was nationwide and I didn’t know how many people would be applying,” Clayton said. “But I figured it would be worth a shot. I guess I wrote a pretty good essay and made the cut.
“It’s definitely special to have the title of being the first one. I’m looking forward to seeing where the scholarship goes over the next couple of years, and hopefully one day I can contribute to the scholarship and donate towards it.”
Clayton has been a walk-on for the Bulldogs for the past three seasons. The 6-foot-2, 170-pounder also has the unique distinction of making his only shot attempt and won all nine games in which he appeared in over his career.
“Tate Clayton is an unbelievable kid,” said MSU coach Ben Howland. “He’s a young man that I love so much. His brother was a walk-on here and he followed in his footsteps.
“They’ve had incredible tragedy during his time here with his father getting hit in a car accident over a year and a half ago and was almost killed.”
Clayton’s father, Drew, was in a wreck involving an 18-wheeler while on a work trip in Tennessee and is still debilitated by the injuries he suffered.
“It’s been tough on us financially,” Clayton said. “This (scholarship) gives us something to make everybody happy and gives us something good to celebrate.”
It was basketball that Clayton turned towards to help him take his mind off the hardships his family has had to endure in the wake of the accident.
“Going through what I have with my dad, it was awesome to have that brotherhood with all those guys there for me and all the support from the coaches,” Clayton said. “Being able to be on the team is one of my lifelong dreams and something I’ll cherish forever.”
Clayton’s basketball career was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic, which caused the cancellation of both the SEC and NCAA tournaments. The abrupt ending leaves Clayton among the many student-athletes around the country wondering “what if?”
“It definitely hurt because we had some good momentum going in and was a top four seed in the SEC Tournament and still had a chance to make some noise there and still get into the NCAA Tournament,” Clayton said. “It definitely hurt to not have the chance to see all that play out and see what we could have accomplished.”
Clayton is on pace to graduate in December with a degree in business administration and is in the process of deciding on which law school he wants to attend.