Stephen Clement admitted to being scared, and with good reason.
As Clement was participating in preseason football practice to begin his senior year at Glassboro, his athletic career and life were put momentarily on hold when he was found to have meningitis.
"I was devastated," Clement said shortly after a stellar performance at quarterback and safety during Glassboro's 36-0 victory over visiting Paulsboro on Saturday in the South Jersey Group 1 championship game. "The doctors said I could be out six months."
That prognosis came on Aug. 28, and suddenly Clement was not able to practice, leaving him with too much time to wonder about his immediate future.
It wasn't until the day before the Sept. 10 regular-season opener against Penns Grove that Clement was cleared to resume action.
It turns out that he had bacterial meningitis.
Clement then did everything he could to return to the field and help his team.
To show how tough and determined Clement is, he didn't miss a game in his senior season, although he concedes that he was less than 100 percent.
Clement estimates that he is no better than 90 percent even now, although his performance suggested otherwise. And, one has to wonder, what will he be like when that other 10 percent arrives?
Clement completed 4 of 8 passes for 91 yards and one touchdown, didn't turn the ball over, and intercepted a pass and returned it 45 yards. That interception led to Glassboro's second touchdown, a 2-yard run by his brother Corey, an impressive sophomore.
"For my brother to do what he has after what he went through this season, I give him a lot of respect," Corey Clement said. "Sharing this with my brother means a lot to me."
Imagine what it means to Stephen, going out a champion after not knowing if he would have the chance to compete this year?
Make no mistake, it has been difficult all season for Stephen Clement. As a junior, he was an all-conference safety, but this year he didn't play defense for the first part of the season while he regained his strength.
"I was very weak and lost a lot of muscle mass," he said. "I lost a lot of weight.
Listed at 6 feet and 185 pounds, Clement said he is not back up to his original weight.
Still, he is in good enough shape to play offense and defense and serve as a return man.
"Before the season, he lost about 20 pounds, and he had to get gradually back," Glassboro coach Herb Neilio said. "But he hung in there and worked to get better, and you could see the improvement each week."
After what occurred, Clement has taken more time to appreciate that the thing that was most dear to him, playing his senior year, wasn't taken away.
"When it first happened and there is the possibility of missing the senior year, it was tough to think of," he said. "In my heart, I knew I would be back."
He hopes to play at the next level, but whatever the future holds, Clement is embracing the present.
He ended his high school career in an enviable fashion – walking off the field as a champion.
"It took a lot of hard work, but I just thank God that I got to experience this," he said. "There were so many ups and downs this year, but to share this championship with my teammates is an unbelievable feeling."