Clevon George entered the room sporting tiny, bouncing dreads and a big grin, making it obvious why his friends refer to him as “Animal” from the Muppets.
He stands shorter than the average soccer player, and immediately radiates the typical relaxed persona found in his native Trinidad. George promptly requested his height be recorded as 5 feet 9 inches, not the more precise 5 feet 7 inches. When assured that not only his real height, but his tiny 7 1/2 shoe size would be cited accurately, he laughed and replied, “That’s messed up, man!”
Despite his laid back personality, the 22-year-old UT senior plays a serious role as starting forward on the Spartan soccer team.
In the upset against undefeated Lynn, in spite of being down 2-0, George began the Spartan four-goal rally with a header, boosting his team’s confidence. In overtime against the Florida Institute of Technology, he scored the game-winning goal.
“He is a great motivator,” said Adanna Smart, George’s girlfriend of five years. “He brings creativity to the field and creates goals.”
Although his statistics are impressive, George contributes more to his team than just goals and assists, his coach said.
“He is exactly what we want in our athletes,” said head coach Adrian Bush. “He brings character to the program.”
His coach and girlfriend agree that the biggest asset he provides is a good work ethic, accompanied by strong values. He dedicates himself to the greater good of the team, exemplified by his willingness to help younger players, and graceful acceptance of all decisions made by his coaching staff, beneficial to him or not.
Furthermore, Bush said that George is extremely well liked and respected, ranking in the top third of the team in popularity.
“No one on the team would say anything bad about him,” said Bush. “And trust me, you can’t say that about everyone.”
This status provided him with great ability to motivate and influence his teammates.
“I don’t let other people put down their heads,” said George. “But if I become frustrated, probably the entire team will become frustrated too.”
At times, his hot temper got him in trouble with referees, as his history with red cards shows. However, with a clean record for this season, he has worked to keep his rage in check.
“I’ve been quite good this year,” said George. “Last year I’d probably have seven or eight yellow cards by now.”
He comes from a close-knit family dedicated to the sport. As a child, his dad would wake him and his three brothers everyday for a family jog around 6 a.m. Afterwards, his dad practiced drills with the boys while his mom prepared breakfast, which was eaten as a family.
From the age of 7, he played on so many well-established teams he lost count of the exact number. He helped his secondary school in Trinidad win four major titles before heading to Young Harris College in Atlanta for two years. He ended his sophomore year with 17 goals and six assists before making his way to Tampa.
In addition to improving his skills, his experience forced him to mature at a young age. At 14, he began traveling to places such as Spain, Germany and Brazil to compete, drastically reducing his time spent at home. He could no longer rely on his parents to make smart choices for him.
“Trust me, he’s mature,” said Smart. “After all, he’s younger than me and I date him!”
Nevertheless, his maturity hasn’t interfered with the dominant aspect of his personality, his easy going nature. After spending a mere five minutes in his presence, it is difficult to imagine him ever getting truly upset. Whether he was quoting Eric Cartman of South Park or kicking a soccer ball around the room, he emitted a fun, relaxed attitude.
“He is a clown!” said Smart. “He is Clevon. I don’t know how else to describe him.”
His coach found it difficult to find words to portray his personality as well.
“He is smooth. Like a sly cat,” said Bush.
When choosing just one word to describe him, Bush threw around “slick” and “style” before calling in the assistant coach, Maurice Loregnard, to help him. They finally decided on “fashion dreads,” and explained while laughing that he will know what it means.
George later clarifies that his coaches tease him for not having “real” dreadlocks, since his are so small.
“I’m not going to speak to them at practice today,” he said with a smile. “That’s messed up man!”
Currently, his two younger brothers play soccer, one for a semiprofessional team, another on scholarship at a Trinidadian secondary school. Due to a knee injury, his oldest brother can no longer play competitively. Thus, it comes as no surprise George wishes to expand his soccer career past the college level.
“Before, he only played ball because he loves it,” said Smart. “Now he’s become more focused in terms of focusing on his future.”
Although he wants to eventually make his way back to Trinidad, he hopes to play for a European team, preferably in England or Scotland, and more preferably for Arsenal or Manchester United. He would also like to put his management degree to use.
“In 10 years, I want to be playing soccer,” says George. “And have a family, and be well settled. And own a business.”
However, for the time being, he is preoccupied with his final college season of the sport that has become the love of his life.
“Even I come second to football,” laughs Smart. “And I’m OK with that!”