Bill Howton, Bill Groman and Harlon Hill.
It’s a group of players that the casual football fan would struggle to pick out of a lineup, but they hold a distinguished pro football record. The trio are the only players in NFL history to score at least 10 touchdowns in the first ten games of their rookie year, or at least they were. For the first time since Groman hit the mark in 1960, a pro football youngster has achieved the feat and it seemed like just another week for Canadian sensation Chase Claypool.
Essentially from the first time the Abbotsford, British Columbia (outside of Vancouver), native stepped on an NFL field he’s grabbed headlines and produced points at a rate never before seen by a rookie wide receiver in the Super Bowl era. Those aren’t the only records he’s breaking either. Claypool has barely started his NFL career and he already sits eighth all-time in touchdowns by a Canadian born player, just one behind current Baltimore Raven and former Super Bowl champion Luke Willson. Claypool could tie that mark as early as this week and it wouldn’t be the only one. Another touchdown would pull Claypool level with Hall of Famer Franco Harris and former NFL Rookie of the Year Louis Lipps for most touchdowns by a Pittsburgh Steelers rookie. That is a mark that matters a great deal to Claypool.
“I don’t really compare stats that much. If I’m comparing anything, it’s team records, and that speaks louder than stats in my opinion,” Claypool told reporters earlier this week. “I’ve got all of them so far, and we’ll see how the rest of the season plays out.”
Claypool has always been a record setter. As a high schooler at little known Abbotsford Secondary, he ripped through the B.C. High School AA ranks playing for a school not even big enough to compete in the top division. His senior year stats wouldn’t look out of place in a video game: 58 catches for 1,473 yards and 18 touchdowns, 47 carries for 567 yards and eight touchdown, and three passing touchdowns. Add in 74 tackles, two sacks, two fumble recoveries, five interceptions and three more touchdowns on kick returns and you get a picture of the player now ripping up the NFL.
Those eyepopping numbers made Claypool the first Canadian based player to sign with the University of Notre Dame in over two decades and he didn’t disappoint there either. A demon on special teams as a true freshman, the freakish Canuck eventually became the top offensive weapon for one of college football’s most iconic programs, amassing 66 catches for 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior. Since being drafted 49th overall in the 2nd round of the 2020 NFL Draft, he’s done exactly the same thing for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“You are never really able to picture something like this, but I expected to have success just based off training and how I felt about myself and my preparation,” Claypool said of his early career accomplishments. “I definitely thought the transition would be a little bit longer.”
With 581 total yards and 10 touchdowns in his first 10 games, the Canadian has made it look easy. Claypool has done it all, from game-breaking deep balls and red-zone heroics to spectacular catches and ankle breaking runs after the catch. At a whopping 6’4 and 238 pounds, he has become Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite target in a thus far undefeated run by the Steelers. Not since North Battleford, Saskatchewan’s Rueben Mayes captured the Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 1986 has a Canadian captivated NFL audiences and the kid that many have dubbed “Mapletron” has quickly become a household name. Each time he finds the endzone has become a viral sensation, a phenomenon that started with his record setting four touchdown performance against Philadelphia in October. Since then, the Canadian has been must-watch TV week after week.
Claypool has plenty of records still to break and accolades to bring in, but there is no doubt that only one matters to him. Sitting at 10-0 as the NFL’s only unbeaten team, the Pittsburgh Steelers sit atop the AFC and have a chance to chase perfection. Three Canadians have appeared in Super Bowls wearing Steelers’ black and gold: Roy Gerela, Mitch Berger and Shane Suisham. While Howton, Groman and Hill are cool, that is the trifecta that Claypool is really hoping to join.