Shrine Bowl call-up Clayton Louderback stands in elite company this week. Not on the original roster, Louderback was one of the replacements called upon after a select few bowed out of the Shrine Bowl festivities due to scheduling conflicts. And that’s fine by him.
Despite not standing out among an assortment of exceptional football players to come through Upton-Sundance in his first two years, Louderback quietly built a reputation and body of work worthy of a Shrine Bowl invitation. As a junior, Louderback took over an offense that had ranked second in Class 1A/11-man the previous two seasons. He was one of just three quarterbacks to throw for over 1,000 in the past two seasons and he averaged 200 all-purpose yards per game, the highest of anyone else in the classification.
There’s a reason he’ll be suited up for the North team on Saturday afternoon.
“You don’t see many 1A players, especially quarterbacks, out here,” Louderback said. “So it’s been a great experience, I’m excited.”
He’s been happy to enjoy this week alongside his Upton-Sundance teammate, Tanner Hofland, who was an original invitee. But one of the first things he noticed during drills over the week was the group of receivers he’ll have on Saturday. Exceptional receivers like Natrona County’s Tehl Campbell, Buffalo’s Aaron Thiele, Thunder Basin’s Dayton Porter and Big Horn’s Kade VanDyken all blew Louderback’s expectations out of the water.
“They’re quick, they’re fast, they can catch every ball that you throw, even if it’s a bad ball,” Louderback said, “It’s great.”
If North head coach Rob Hammond (Buffalo) allows Louderback and his own Luke Glassock to air it out, that could open the South defense, making the North’s potent line and punishing running backs all the more dangerous.
“It opens up more options, you can run different offenses,” Louderback said of the offensive dynamic, “it’s amazing.”
VanDyken illuminated scoreboards across Wyoming in the fall as part of Big Horn’s undefeated march toward a state title. He’s also a 1A guy, and together they can prove they belong with the best in the state.
Having said that, Louderback was also taken aback at the all-class dynamics during practice. His effort to show that the 1A representatives belonged didn’t come without its hurdles. The first few practices were rough.
“It’s a lot of competition, everything’s faster than in 1A,” he said. “But it’s been a great experience so far.”
By far Louderback’s favorite part of the Shrine Bowl week was Monday’s trip to Salt Lake City and the Shriners Children’s Hospital. Not only did it give him perspective on what the game is all about but it helped him re-focus priorities in life.
“These kids that we go see, they don’t have everything that all of us have,” Louderback explained. “And it just hits you hard right in the heart.”
After Saturday’s game the Upton multi-sport graduate will resume his summer routines. He plans to take a break from sports and study at the University of Wyoming. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his eyes on the future. He’s still toying with the idea of spending his collegiate freshman year in the weight room and studying football so that he can get bigger, stronger and improve his game. If he chooses to do that, he’ll attempt to walk-on for the Cowboys his sophomore season.
It’ll be hard for him to walk away from football entirely after playing in Saturday’s all-star game. But if he does, he’ll end on a high note.
“Best four years of my life,” he said of his high school career. “Everyone says that high school years are the best years of your life. And I enjoyed it.”