Home » NEWS » Law & Accounting » Trading his cleats for law books – Former Ole Miss Rebel, NFL player Ben Claxton sets his sights on law degree

Trading his cleats for law books – Former Ole Miss Rebel, NFL player Ben Claxton sets his sights on law degree

Ben Claxton when he was an offensive lineman for the NFL's Arizona Cardinals.

Ben Claxton when he was an offensive lineman for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.

Ben Claxton has a bit of a different background for a law school student. Now in his second year at the Mississippi College School of Law, Claxton played for the NFL for nine years before injuries forced his retirement.

Claxton, 33, won many awards as center on the University of Mississippi football team. While he was in college, he had aspirations of being able to play professional football, but knew there were steep odds.

“There is just so much talent,” said Claxton, who played on the Rebels team with his twin brother, John.

“You are reminded of that throughout your time in college, just how difficult it is to make it to the next level. So, obviously, it was an extreme high point when I was drafted in the fifth round by the Denver Broncos.”

Ben Claxton

Ben Claxton

But Claxton didn’t even get to play his first game with the Broncos. In training camp during a routine practice drill, someone rolled up on his leg, which tore cartilage and ligaments in his knee.

“That effectively ended my stay in Denver,” Claxton said.

“I immediately had surgery, but it took a year to completely recover. I bounced around with a couple of teams because I really wanted to play again. I ended up the year with Tampa Bay, and they sent me to NFL Europe, which was the development program the NFL had at the time for guys in similar situations.”

The spring he was in Europe he was fortunate enough to play in the World Bowl, the championship game. His team, the Berlin Thunder, ended up winning.

“It was a wonderful experience,” Claxton said. “The stresses of playing over there were nothing like the standard NFL season we have over here. It was a much more laid back experience. We would usually be done mid afternoon, so we would be able to get out and experience the cities and sightsee. Sometimes we had one or two days off. It was a really interesting experience. I had a great time.”

The next highlight was being picked up by the Atlanta Falcons. Being from Georgia, that was like winning the lottery for Claxton.

“I grew up a Falcons’ fan,” he said. “So when I was signed by the Falcons, it was a dream come true. I was with them a little shy of three years. I played center in college, and center and guard in the NFL. I was mostly a guard with the Falcons.”

The second season Claxton suffered a serious injury, and was placed on the injured reserve list. He basically missed the whole season due to that injury. The next year after the Falcons hired a new coach, the coach revamped the roster and Claxton was released. He was a couple of years on the mend, and the last substantial stop he had was with the Arizona Cardinals.

“The injuries take their toll,” Claxton said. “There is a cumulative effect. At the end of my time in Arizona, I spent more time in the training room than on the field. That is when I knew it was time to hang it up.”

Coming back to Mississippi was an easy decision. He loved it at Ole Miss, and had a wonderful experience there. His wife, Haley Claxton, worked in Jackson, so he would spend the off seasons with her in Jackson.

“I enjoyed it,” he said. “I made a lot of friends. I didn’t give it a second thought. When I retired from the NFL, it was where I wanted to be.”

Claxton had law school in the back of his mind during those years in the NFL. He knew that the average career in the NFL is only three years.

“It isn’t a substantial amount of time you can expect,” he said. “Certainly there are guys who have played longer, but that is not the norm.

“I knew when I got done playing football I wasn’t going to retire and kick back and do nothing. And certain experiences through my playing days made me realize how valuable a law degree could be.”

Claxton hasn’t decided on a legal specialty yet. “I want to be as open as I can be,” he said.

MC Law Dean Jim Rosenblatt said they are pleased to have Claxton at MC Law.

“He is a serious student and has done well here academically and is an active part of our student body,” Rosenblatt said.

“We value and recruit those prospective law students who participated in varsity or professional athletics. Athletes have a leg up in terms of their background and preparation for law school. They possess time management skills, understand team play, know the taste of victory and disappointment, are familiar with goal setting and planning, and have been yelled at before.”

Rosenblatt said Claxton came to them highly recommended. In addition to being a scholar and athlete in college, he was active in a variety of organizations and advanced a number of charitable causes.

“I am confident he will make an effective attorney and will be a leader in his community,” Rosenblatt said.

“It is MC Law’s honor to afford Ben his legal education.”

Claxton has been named to the MC Law Review, a major tribute.

 

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