Softball Head Coach Devon Thomas, left, and Eric Clanton hold a framed jersey for Mike Clanton, longtime athletic trainer, at a ceremony held in Mike's honor. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Brenau athletics honors longtime Athletic Trainer Mike Clanton

Apr 28, 2021
Kathryne Davis
Mike Clanton’s brother, Eric, left, and mother, Sue, hold a framed jersey given by Brenau in Mike’s honor. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Brenau University honored one of the most well-known athletic trainers in the Gainesville community, Mike Clanton, during a softball doubleheader on Saturday, April 17. Clanton passed away in July 2020.

Clanton came to Brenau in 2005 and spent the next 15 years caring for athletes and coaches. Before Clanton arrived at Brenau, there was no real training room, and it was difficult to treat athletes. During his time at Brenau, he helped acquire equipment, put policies in place and form relationships with doctors, dentists and therapists for the student-athletes.

Not only will he be remembered for taking care of injuries, but Mike Lochstampfor, athletic director and head soccer coach, said Clanton will be remembered for his caring nature as well.

“Mike had a huge heart for service and athletes and a genuine love of people,” Lochstampfor said. “He spent thousands of hours treating athletes, transporting them to doctor’s appointments, sitting in the emergency room until late into the night and taking phone calls at all hours. I can’t remember a time when I called or texted Mike and didn’t receive an almost immediate reply.”

During the ceremony, Clanton’s mother, Sue, and brother, Eric, were presented with a framed Brenau softball jersey that was stitched with Clanton’s last name and high school football number on the back, as softball was one of Clanton’s favorite sports. In addition, small reminders of Clanton were passed out to attendees, including Coca-Cola, Gatorade and Slim Jim’s.

In an effort to continue to honor the memory of Clanton, Lochstampfor announced the establishment of the Michael D. Clanton Excellence in Athletics Award, which will be given to a junior or senior athlete that demonstrates qualities and values that Clanton modeled and valued through his service to Brenau. The qualities include teamwork, loyalty, servant leadership and excellence in sport and academics. The award will be presented annually at the Athletics Hall of Fame ceremony.

Mike Lochstampfor, Brenau athletic director and head women’s soccer coach, speaks during Mike Clanton’s ceremony. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Clanton graduated from the University of Georgia in 1988 and received his national certification as an athletic trainer. He became an athletic trainer for UGA in 1990 where he earned his Master of Education in Sports Administration in the same year. Clanton also served as president, vice president and treasurer of the Georgia Athletics Trainers Association.

“I would argue that it would be difficult to find an athletic trainer in the state that hadn’t been taught, mentored or impacted by Mike in some way,” Lochstampfor said.

Several people who were closely influenced by Clanton spoke at the ceremony, including Jim Lewis, associate professor of physical therapy at Brenau, and Faith Grooms, a senior on the softball team.

Lewis, a student athletic trainer at UGA at the same time as Clanton, arrived at Brenau nearly seven years ago and was surprised to see his old friend working at the same institution. The two lost contact after Clanton moved from Athens, Georgia, but they quickly caught up and would often reminisce about their time at UGA over lunch.

“Mike’s demeanor was magnetic,” Lewis said. “He was a friend to everyone who met him.

Faith Grooms, a senior on the softball team, speaks during the Mike Clanton ceremony. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

“He was always dedicated to serving those around him. Despite his demanding profession and work ethic, I doubt Mike ever went home exhausted, but likely satisfied. That is probably why I could never get him to come to a Saturday tailgate. He was either recharging his batteries for the next adventure or was off running to another practice, meet or game. It’s not because he had to but because he wanted to, and he loved every moment.”

Grooms talked about how Clanton was more than an athletic trainer to the softball team.

“We treated him as if he was part of our coaching staff,” Grooms said. “He was always there to help with anything. Two years ago, he came to the conference tournament in Kingsport, Tennessee. He was there to support us throughout the week. He became part of the conference championship team.

“Whenever I went to the training room for any type of nagging injury, I was able to talk to him to get things off my chest and tell him about my day. He cared far beyond just athletic training.”