East Carolina junior quarterback Brett Clay has announced that he will step away from college football for medical reasons and retire after a three-year career with the Pirates.
Clay opened the spring practice period vying for a starting position along with Patrick Pinkney and Rob Kass but aggravated an existing and painful long-term knee injury early last week, forcing him to miss the program's first intra-squad scrimmage. In all, he has undergone a total of three surgical procedures on his left knee during his playing career - one to repair an anterior cruciate ligament and two to address meniscus damage.
"I'm very appreciative of the opportunity Coach (Skip) Holtz gave me three years ago and I will always have special memories of my time with the Pirate football program," Clay said. "I consider myself very fortunate that I had the chance to experience two bowl games in three years and to have had the support of the greatest fans in the country. While I will miss the daily interaction with my teammates and coaching staff, my medical situation has forced me to examine life after football a little earlier than most. In order to save what little I have left in my knee and maybe slow or lessen the pain somewhat, I felt that the best decision for my future was to step away at this time."
An ECU Athletics Director's Honor Roll performer in the classroom as a construction management major, Clay concluded his playing career experiencing action in five overall games. As a sophomore in 2007, he played in four contests and completed five-of-13 passes for 26 yards. Although he earned his only start against Virginia Tech in the ' 07 season opener, Clay's top single-game effort was a three-of-six, 22-yard passing day against UAB at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium Oct. 27. In addition to Virginia Tech and UAB, he also made appearances vs. Southern Miss and Memphis last fall after seeing limited duty against Marshall in 2006.
"I've got a great deal of respect for Brett and for how long he's been able to play through a lot of pain," Holtz said. "He's certainly been through an injury-plagued career and it simply got to the point where he needed to involve medical counsel and family discussions to help him make a decision for his quality of life after football. He's a great young man and we'll certainly miss him, but we want what's best for Brett."
Clay is a 2005 graduate of Jay M. Robinson High School in Concord, N.C, where he earned four football letters and was a key part of a Bulldogs' program which compiled a 25-11 (.694) record in 2002, 2003 and 2004. He also earned a pair of baseball letters as a pitcher, catcher and infielder and was selected as Robinson's recipient of the Scholar-Athlete Award.