Adair-Casey’s Clayton Plowman has been chasing Tyler Tonderum since eighth grade.
As a ball boy in the 2009 eight-player semifinals, Plowman watched the state’s all-time leader in career rushing yards run over and around the team he was excited to join as a freshman.
Tonderum’s power, speed, rushing record and experience at the UNI-Dome left him starry-eyed.
Just 61 yards away from surpassing Tonderum’s career mark of 6,389, Plowman will be the player to chase after Friday, shooting up Iowa and national eight-player record lists.
“Tyler Tonderum was a guy that I looked up to, being in eight-man but still looked at as that high of a caliber player,” Plowman said. “Being compared talent-wise and getting that record would just be huge. And playing at state, it was a different atmosphere being inside the dome. With that field and the crowd, that’s been my motivation all four years.”
Adair-Casey coach Wade Anderson named Plowman the starting Bombers’ running back in the second game of his high school career. It was a week late.
“We didn’t start him, and the first carry he got he ran over a kid and turned it into a touchdown,” Anderson said. “The seniors that year accepted him after that first play.”
With a blistering start to this season, Plowman is set to become Iowa’s all-time leading rusher in Week 5. He’s rushed for 907 yards through four games, raising his career average to 158 yards per game. By topping Tonderum, he’ll move to fourth all-time nationally, and another 31 more yards from third place, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.
“When I was a freshman, I was a quiet kid that just liked playing the game of football,” Plowman said. “All the way from my first summer to the end of my freshman year it was scary, and I hate to say that, but it was nerve-wracking making the transition from junior high to varsity.”
A two-time state qualifier in the Class 1-A 100-meter dash, Plowman has bulked up to 215 pounds and become a constant menace in eight-player district 6. The Bomber offense is running through one player — until the score gets out of hand — and opponents have seen him for four years.
“It takes two, three or four guys to bring him down, and he gets upset if only one guy manages to take him down,” Anderson said. “He looks to run people over, but he’s one of the fastest guys in the state.”
The handoffs on an 80-yard gridiron have stayed the same in Plowman’s time at Adair-Casey, but his role in the locker room hasn’t. A composed yet restrained speaker, he’s learned to manage being the big fish in a small pond.
“He’s one of those guys that just comes to work every day and speaks up when he needs to,” Anderson said.
After a 307-yard rushing performance against East Union on Sept. 6, pressure turned up from classmates and the community about breaking the rushing record.
For a high schooler who decided against a move to Des Moines (which could have improved his recruiting odds) in order to stay a small-town kid, becoming Iowa’s top rusher in tiny Humeston against Mormon Trail (1-3) on Friday is fitting.
“The 4-A kids are playing at a whole different level — they’re freak athletes,” Plowman said. “I always wanted to play at a bigger school, but going from eight-man to that was always something I wasn’t sure about.
“I decided to stay at Adair-Casey and stay with a smaller school. I didn’t want to leave my friends and family and coach Anderson.”
Adair-Casey has a history of workhorse running backs such as Andrew Leeper, who rushed for 492 yards in a game in 2006. But Plowman’s success isn’t solo, and the Bombers have a 32-8 record in his three-plus seasons.
“We have a ton of unselfish guys,” Anderson said. “We have talented kids that could have been focal points for other offenses, but over the last few years they’ve taken over the role of laying blocks for Clayton. They’ve never complained and come out to do what’s best for our team.”
Plowman says Iowa State and Minnesota are the only Football Bowl Subdivision universities that have shown interest in his abilities. Plenty of smaller schools are interested in the eight-player phenom, but he’ll wait until the end of the season to make a decision.
“I’d like to hope that (eight-player) doesn’t affect my recruiting, but I haven’t had a lot of big schools come in,” Plowman said. “But I’m not really worried about it. It’ll eventually work itself out.”
With eyes set on the UNI-Dome and catching Tonderum, he’s too close to look up now.
“Second-place (nationally) seems reasonable, and that’s what I’m shooting for now,” Plowman said. “There’s a lot of pressure on my shoulders to break the record, but I’m also concerned about the team doing well. I’m not too worried that it didn’t happen yet. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.”
MOVING ON UP
National career rushing leaders, eight-player football:
|1. Cory Eikmeier||Dodge, Neb.||1993-96||8,336|
|2. John Hammel||Dufur, Ore.||1965-68||6,959|
|3. Zac Cardwell||Lowell, Ore.||2007-10||6,419|
|4. Tyler Tonderum||Armstrong-Ringsted||2006-09||6,389|
|5. Clayton Plowman||Adair-Casey||2010-Present||6,329|
Iowa eight-player career rushing touchdowns:
|1. Tyler Tonderum||Armstrong-Ringsted||2006-09||143|
|2. Alex Whigham||Stanton||2006-09||127|
|T3. Dalton Ciavarelli||Clarksville||2009-12||115|
|T3. Clayton Plowman||Adair-Casey||2010-Present||115|
|5. Nate Meier||Fremont-Mills||2008-11||100|
Plowman’s career rushing yards: