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Relive KU O-lineman Calvin Clements' opening night surprise

Freshman's first ever Hawk Walk likely to go down as one he'll remember for a long time

3 min read
Kansas offensive lineman Calvin Clements looks back up the hill during the Hawk Walk after being surprised by two of his best friends before Friday's season opener. [Matt Tait photo]

As he walked down Campanile hill, determined to maintain his game face before his first official college football game, Kansas offensive lineman Calvin Clements cracked.

It wasn’t just a sigh or a sly grin for family members like several of the Jayhawks allowed out. This was all-out shock and it stuck with him for the rest of the walk.

It turns out there was good reason for Clements’ astonishment.

Standing with Clements' family about a quarter of the way down the hill during the team's first Hawk Walk of the 2023 season were two of his best childhood friends — Josh King and Peyton Wheat — who returned to Lawrence to surprise him for his big day.

“I talked to him a lot in the last few weeks and told him that I wasn’t going to make the game,” King told R1S1 Sports. “And then I sent him a text today, saying, ‘Love you, bro. You know I’m gonna miss the game, but I’ll be watching.’”

Peyton Wheat (left) and Josh King (right) surprised longtime friend Calvin Clements before Friday's season-opening win by the Kansas football team. [Matt Tait photo]

King, who graduated from Lawrence High School, is playing football at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas.

Wheat, who started his high school career at Free State and finished up at Topeka High, came from West Texas A&M just south of Amarillo, Texas, to pull off his part of the surprise.

“Last week, Josh was over at the apartment and Calvin was actually looking for plane flights for me so I could make it,” Wheat told R1S1. “Little did he know, I already had one booked. I’ve been talking to him throughout the week and stuff and today, I text him, ‘I wish I could be there in person; this is everything we’ve waited for our whole life. Soak it in.’ And now he knows I’m here right now.”

After an initial quick hug for his mother during the Hawk Walk, Clements saw his surprise. His face exploded with shock and he seemed unable to process what he had just experienced.

For the rest of the walk, as he tried to gather himself, he continued to look back up the hill to make sure what he saw was actually real.

“We kind of just said, ‘Oh, what’s up,’ like he should’ve known we were here,” King said with a laugh. “I could tell it caught him by surprise and I think he wanted to stop and talk to us but he knew he couldn’t. We thought we’d get him hyped before he got to the locker room.”

The trio met up after the game, joining KU walk-on and Clements' cousin Jaydon Brittingham to celebrate the Jayhawks' 48-17 win over Missouri State.

According to the postgame participation report, Clements did not play during Friday’s victory. But the 6-foot-7, 315-pound freshman who graduated high school early to start with the Jayhawks during the spring is listed on the depth chart as the No. 2 right tackle, so there’s little doubt that he stayed locked into the action from start to finish in case he was needed.

Because he did not play, he was not available for reporters after the victory. But he did not need to speak about the pregame surprise to explain what it meant to him.

His face showed it all.

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