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How Fournette, a fight and a lost season fuel Corey Clement

Corey Clement says he's a better person and teammate and that he belongs on any top RBs list. "Just letting people know that I came back for a reason and that's to make a name for myself and this team," he said. "This is going to be a fun one." Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY Network

MADISON, Wis. -- Atop the Camp Randall Stadium steps, where the sun bakes pavement and the weight of a 50-pound vest burns his legs, Corey Clement stares down on the field and envisions everything again being right in his world.

He visualizes 80,000 fans screaming uncontrollably after he has polished off a long touchdown run, but beyond that, he visualizes redemption. With the season set to begin, he is once again healthy in body and spirit, fully recovered from a sports hernia injury that derailed his junior season and an embarrassing off-field fight that sullied his reputation. This, Clement tells himself, is the way it's supposed to be -- the way it can be once more.

He is here, grinding through more "stadium" runs preparing for Wisconsin's Saturday opener against No. 5 LSU at Lambeau Field in Green Bay (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET). On one side will be Leonard Fournette, a Heisman favorite and the presumptive No. 1 running back in the upcoming NFL draft. On the other side will be Clement, who says he feels like a forgotten man. His mission is to use this year with the Badgers as an opportunity to reclaim what was lost. And he understands he has plenty to prove both on and off the field.

Clement, who holds the career South New Jersey high school rushing record, has never hid from his desire to be considered among the elite class of college running backs. But when Clement logged onto Twitter this offseason and saw several top-five lists of the best college tailbacks, he noticed his name was nowhere to be found. Leonard Fournette. Dalvin Cook. Christian McCaffrey. Royce Freeman. Samaje Perine.

"I try to stay off Twitter as much as possible, but it's annoying," he said. "You scroll down and you see, 'Who's going to be on the podium for this running back class?' I'm just sitting there like, 'OK.' I really laugh sometimes."

Of course, there are good reasons those players have pried much of the spotlight from Clement. McCaffrey was a Heisman Trophy finalist last year and finished second in the nation with 2,019 rushing yards. Fournette finished third (1,953 yards), Freeman fourth (1,836), Cook sixth (1,691) and Perine 21st (1,349) one year after setting the single-game FBS rushing record. Clement, meanwhile, could do nothing as he watched from the sideline, missing nine games and finishing with 221 yards rushing.

In July, Clement was frustrated enough about being overlooked that he posted this tweet:

"I just think some NFL scouts or people who follow college football in general, they don't even mention me up with Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, all these other top premier backs," Clement said. "It's kind of a smack in the face to not even be mentioned with these guys. I've been here before some of these guys who came in, like Fournette. But he's gained his respect.

"This is my season to make up and say, 'I haven't left yet. You made a big mistake trying to drop my name out of the running.' It's another motivation just to kick into another gear and just go off the first game. I've got to think about the first game -- the first game only. Me against Fournette. So, bring on the show."

Clement has tracked his offseason slights and used them as a fuel reserve. He singled out a Feb. 16 tweet from Fournette, who uploaded video of himself squatting 405 pounds during offseason workouts while describing it as "easy." Several media outlets wrote stories off the video, which has been viewed nearly 150,000 times on Fournette's Twitter and Instagram accounts alone.

"There's so much that they hype up on social media, whether it's, 'Oh, look at Fournette do this squat, 405 pounds 20 times,'" Clement said. "I can do it, but I'm not going to display it. It's fine. The SEC has their talent, and I respect their style of play. ... It doesn't mean we have to let the world see that before the season starts."

Clement's training sessions this summer have largely occurred in the background. And while he bemoans the national significance of one 12-second video, Clement acknowledges it also provides him with visual proof of what he's chasing in his final college season.

Sometimes, in the pre-dawn hours when Clement feels tired, when he wants to hit the snooze alarm and sleep just a little longer to avoid a workout, he'll jolt himself awake with one question: What's Fournette doing?

"Shoot, he's probably doing something right now," Clement said. "Let me get my behind out of bed and just keep working."

To continue reading on Clement's motivation for this season, click here.