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April 24, 2010When Jimmy Clausen woke up in a Palm Springs, Calif., hotel Friday morning, he still didn't know where he would start his professional football career.
Later that night, the agonizing wait for the phone call that never came during the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night gave way to a golden opportunity in Charlotte, N.C.
Clausen found a home in the second round Friday night when the Carolina Panthers snagged the former Irish great with the 48th overall selection.
"I always said I wanted to be picked as high as I could, but at the end of the day, everything happens for a reason and I couldn't be happier to be a part of the Panthers organization," Clausen said.
"I didn't think I was going to go anywhere, whether it was top 10, the first round, third round I just wanted to get my name called."
Clausen couldn't have asked for a better situation than the one he's stepping into under head coach John Fox at Carolina. With veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme cut by the Panthers, Clausen will enter into competition with Oregon State alum Matt Moore, a high school teammate of former Irish defensive end Chris Frome.
Moore has played just 16 games in the NFL, starting eight. Hunter Caldwell, a former practice squad performer for the Panthers, is the other quarterback under contract in Carolina.
"My goal is to get the playbook as soon as I can, learn that as fast as I can, and try to be the starter from Day One," Clausen said. "That's going to be my mentality. Whatever the coaches want me to do, I'm going to do it to the best of my ability."
Clausen believes he has an advantage in Fox's offensive system. After Clausen was selected by the Panthers, Fox told him that the Carolina offense is just like the one he ran under Charlie Weis at Notre Dame.
Clausen is eager to get started with the Panthers and to dispel the notion that attitude and leadership are his shortcomings.
"I think I'm a great leader and teammate," Clausen said. "If you ask all the guys on the team, they love hanging out with me, they love being around me and my family."
Clausen shrugged off the criticism that was directed at him as his name plummeted to the midway point of the second round.
"That's just the nature of football," Clausen said. "I make mistakes, other guys make mistakes, but at the end of the day, you have to come together and get better each and every week."