Celebrity Car: Michael Clayton - East Valley Tribune: Business

Celebrity Car: Michael Clayton

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Posted: Friday, August 17, 2007 12:00 am | Updated: 7:00 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

For a guy who has all kinds of vehicles, Michael Clayton doesn’t drive as much as you might think. During last summer’s training camp for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, his NFL team, he car-pooled the 90 miles from his home with a teammate.

For a guy who has all kinds of vehicles, Michael Clayton doesn’t drive as much as you might think.

During last summer’s training camp for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, his NFL team, he car-pooled the 90 miles from his home with a teammate.

Clayton’s prized Bentley Continental GT stayed safely nestled in the garage. He also left behind his Range Rover, the vehicle that wife Tina uses. His Chrysler 300C remained in the driveway as well, as did his everyday ride, a Chevy Tahoe provided to him as part of an endorsement contract with a car dealership.

“The Bentley is for weekends, nights out with my wife, just every once in a while,” the affable 24-year-old (at the time) said.

“That car will get more dust in my garage than it will on the street.”

Just a couple of days before camp, Clayton had plenty to prove on the gridiron. The Bucs’ 2004 first-round draft pick (15th overall) out of Louisiana State lit up the league in his rookie season with 80 catches and seven touchdowns. The following year, his numbers nosedived to a journeyman-like 35 grabs and zero touchdowns, largely due to a series of nagging injuries.

Bucs coach Jon Gruden, who relishes motivating players in clever ways, presented Clayton with a written contract requiring him to work extra hard in the off-season, improving the player’s chances of returning to his dominating rookie form. Clayton signed.

Early practices were encouraging with Clayton making a number of impressive plays and complaining of nothing more than a mild case of turf toe.

While Clayton has a fondness for big, diamond-encrusted watches and extravagant vehicles, he comes off as far more levelheaded than most young NFL stars. The signing bonus from his first contract made him an instant six-million-dollar man, and while that was a nice chunk of change, he knew it didn’t give him license to buy anything he wanted at any time. “Uncle Sam takes half of that,” he said with a cautionary tone.

This sense of fiscal proportion comes largely from Clayton’s stable upbringing in Baton Rouge, La. Although his father made a nice living as a federal agriculture inspector, Clayton paid for his first car.

“In high school, I honestly knew nothing about cars ... my friends knew all types of Benzes and everything. I was a student ... athlete,” he said, carefully emphasizing each word and pausing in between. “So I had a lot on my plate. Even now, I don’t know a whole lot about cars.”

He knows he likes nice wheels, however. And the dude has a serious chrome fetish. The Bentley is set up with an $11,000 set of 22-inch Löwenhart wheels. The Range Rover wears Asanti 22-inchers, and the 300C is shod with Dub-brand 22s. Even his dealership Tahoe has Giovanna 24-inch wheels with color-matched caps.

“I have never driven a car on the street unless it has rims on it,” Clayton said with a grin. “I will purchase my rims before I purchase my car. I’ll go from the dealership straight to the rim store, or have somebody from the rim store pick the car up, put ’em on, and I’ll pick the car up there.”

Clayton chose the Bentley’s wheels and devised a beautifully subtle custom touch, a groove on the inside of the rims painted to match the same midnight blue as the car.

Beyond custom wheels, though, Clayton is not much for modifying his rides. The Bentley is completely stock, save for chrome lower grilles. The Range Rover sports a Strutbrand collection of grilles and side vents.

But you won’t see Clayton chopping his rides into flashy car-show spectacles. “It’s basically paying for the car twice,” he said with a shrug. In fact, when Clayton bought his first car after turning pro, a Mercedes SL500 hardtop roadster, the dealer offered him a special upgrade kit for $20,000. He passed.

“I will not touch the interior of a luxury car,” he said. “I won’t even exchange the stereo. You mess with the interior: You mess up the resale value. And that black [window] tint, that’s just not my style. If I’m driving a Bentley, you know, I want people to see me sometimes.”

The Bucs receiver plans to stand pat on the vehicle front for now. He has footballs to catch, yards to gain, touchdowns to score, a wife and kids. Someday, though, he’d like to land a classic American car and have it restored.

Right now, the dream is a little fuzzy: definitely a Cadillac convertible, 1970 or earlier, with bench seats. “I won’t even get rims on it,” Clayton added. “Maybe some 15-inch chrome hub cabs. And I want it full antique, not customized.”

But a restored Caddy is a toy he’ll get down the line. “Cars like that come along with new houses, where you’ve got a place to store ’em so they won’t get touched or damaged,” he said. “I don’t have all that yet.”

As for the Bucs’ parking lot at Raymond James Stadium, it’s already packed with shiny, highpriced rides, but when asked to name the Bucs player with the most head-turning ride, Clayton paused, slowly broke into a grin, and leveled his gaze. “Yeah,” he said. “Me.”

Celebrity Car is produced by Wheelbase Communications in conjunction with quarterly publication Celebrity Car Magazine and the duPont Registry.

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