As a former Sterling center I still have my 1979 football scouting report on the Lee Gander defense. There among the names of guys I had played with and against for many years is a special name. The entry for the right defensive tackle says:
“Two year starter. 197 lb. senior. # 66”
That information is punctuated with a star to let us know this is a good player. There is also a name:
I didn’t need that scouting report to know the person on the other side of the line from me. Mike and I became friends at Cedar Bayou Junior many years before where we played football together and spent time in each other’s’ homes. In eighth grade we were on the CB yearbook staff together in what was a very tight-knit group. Like all of our classmates we were growing and learning about life. We were sharing the awkward teen years together and starting to develop into the people we would ultimately become.
There was never a more maroon Gander than Mike Clement, but when our high school years took him to REL and me to RSS, our friendship continued unabated. Long before the days of smart phones or social media, we actually spoke on the phone regularly discussing our high school experiences and athletic trials and tribulations. He was a true friend with a positive outlook on life and a tenacious work ethic.
Sometime during our sophomore year I remember Mike telling me about vision problems he was having. He was not only an excellent football player, he was also a serious power-hitting baseball player. Poor vision present a problem for a hitter. He sought medical help, but got no conclusive diagnosis.
Mike battled through football and baseball his last two years, graduated, and headed to Sam Houston State University. His symptoms increased, and sometime during his time in college, Mike was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. That diagnosis is a shock to anyone, but especially to a young college student.
Despite taking powerful drugs and feeling the effects of the disease, Mike maintained his positive outlook and battled. He was a man of faith, and his approach to his challenge was a direct result of that faith and the support of his family. Mike graduated from college with an accounting degree and began working as youth minister for Central Baptist Church in Baytown.
In his 1987 book Rise to the Challenge, Mike describes hitting rock bottom physically and emotionally. From that pit he prayed and determined not to wallow in self-pity. He threw his energy into his ministry and eventually was elected to the Goose Creek CISD school board. He was an example of making a difference regardless of the challenges we face.
We lost Mike to this life in 1998 to an accident related to his disease. His memorial service was like a reunion of the REL Class of 1980 and those of us from Sterling that knew and loved him. It was an outpouring of love for a star we admired. Since that time his family, including his widow, Carole, has awarded scholarships to Baytown students in Mike’s name. It is fitting that he continues to impact the lives of Baytown’s youth.
You can help us honor Mike’s legacy by supporting our annual fundraiser, a charity golf tournament at Eagle Pointe Golf Course on Saturday, October 21st at 8 a.m. The registration form will be ready soon on this website and on our Facebook page Friends of Mike Clement. You can also make a general non-golf donation any time by using the Give link on our main menu. All donations are tax-deductible.