Clay Anderson is going to be able to look back on his high school sports career at Flowery Branch High with no regrets.
Free time was scant for this three-sport standout, who set a new school record with 12 varsity letters, but the drive to compete meant more to him than having idle hours.
“I just really enjoyed playing all the sports,” said Anderson, who will be attending Georgia College in the fall. “I think kids should play as many sports as they can, as long as they’re having fun with it.”
With complete support from his family, including his parents Eileen and Douglas, Anderson lettered all four years of high school for the Falcons in football, wrestling and track and field.
Some would call Anderson a throwback to the times when players weren’t clamoring for college scholarships and opportunities at the next level. There’s ample speculation that athletes, in general, are playing fewer sports than in past decades.
However, that certainly doesn’t apply to the mild-mannered Anderson, who finished high school with a GPA above 4.0.
Simply put, Anderson liked playing all the sports, so he wasn’t going to miss out on those opportunities.
Right now, he plans to study business in college.
“Clay’s an outstanding kid and really demonstrates what high school sports is all about,” Falcons football coach Ben Hall said. “Three-sport kids are few and far between these days.”
For now, Anderson won’t be playing sports in college, but he’s not closing all his doors. He’s spending his summer conditioning and working on the discus, knowing there’s an opportunity to join the program at Western Carolina University, in the future, if he chooses to do so.
Anderson gravitated to playing the most physically-taxing sports, even though he also dabbled in baseball and soccer as a kid.
Those two, however, were not his cup of tea.
At about 220 pounds, Anderson has always maximized his size and strength to his advantage.
Wrestling has always been his favorite and he was highly successful grappling, but he thinks the throws in track and field would provide the best opportunities to compete at the next level.
In football, Anderson was a Swiss Army knife for the Falcons, earning playing time primarily on the defensive line, but also at fullback and special teams.
All four years in high school, Anderson was part of a playoff football program. He said his fondest memory on the gridiron was beating their biggest rival, Gainesville, all three times.
Hall said all of the coaches at Flowery Branch actively encourage athletes to be involved in as many sports, as possible.
Anderson, he said, is a great example of showing how it can be done successfully.
“You don’t want to look back at 25 or 30 years old and regret not playing a sport you wanted to try,” Flowery Branch’s football coach said. “I’ve never had a player look back later and regret that they played.”
Anderson speaks with great enthusiasm about wrestling.
As a senior, he took third place in Class 4A in the 220-pound class. In 2020, he took sixth place at the same weight.
He was equally pleased with the growth of Flowery Branch’s wrestling program from 2017-2021.
Anderson said they really saw improvement in 2021, taking third place in the team standings at the traditional state meet.
The prior year, just before the COVID-19 outbreak, Flowery Branch had ‘8 or 9’ wrestlers get through to the state brackets.
In the spring, Anderson was constantly trying to perfect his craft in throwing the discus.
As a senior, he took fifth in Class 4A with a throw of 152 feet. His personal best was 157 at the state sectionals.
He always enjoyed the technical aspect of throwing the discus, knowing it relied on form just as much as brute strength.
“My favorite thing about track and field was seeing what you’re doing wrong and getting better with your (personal best),” Anderson said. “There’s nothing better than improving yourself.”
Anderson always used his size to his advantage, even though it’s still a mystery where it came from in the family tree.
Anderson said his father was a highly-decorated 113-pound wrestler, growing up in Washington State. Clay said his mother and two sisters are also both small in stature.
“I’ve always been bigger than my friends,” Anderson said. “I was 215 pounds in the eighth grade.”
Anderson said another benefit of being successful in athletics and academics in high school was learning time-management skills for college.
Even on days when he wanted a break from sports, the three-sports standout had things structured to complete everything on his daily checklist.
First, he’d knock out homework, especially on days when there was a late game, match or meet.
Then, he could devote the remainder of the day to that particular sports season.
Currently, Anderson said this is the first time he can recall not having a sports season he’s preparing to play. Even in the summer, he’d typically have football conditioning.
Right now, he’s working out at home and going to work on throws at Flowery Branch High.
However, sports has always been a labor of love for Anderson, especially after seeing how the loss of the 2020 spring season to the coronavirus precautions negatively impacted that senior class.
Last spring, Anderson said he was only a few weeks into track season when they were forced to shut it down.
So in 2020-2021, Anderson devoted every ounce of energy into everything he did in sports and the classroom.
However, it wasn’t until the track and field season-ending banquet that Anderson realized he had a new school record for varsity letters at Flowery Branch High, which opened in the fall of 2002.
“I never thought about setting the school record as a goal,” Anderson said. “I just enjoyed the experiences getting to play all three sports.”