It's safe to say that Clarence Clemons found his life's calling. Belting out notes on the sax for Springsteen's crew has made for a decent job — fame, millions of dollars, and looking completely badass. But Clemons was one car accident away from a career move that might have changed the course of rock forever, a choice that would have had the Boss introducing someone named Clive or Joe or Tommy on the horns instead of The Big Man.
Clemons, you see, might have played for the Cleveland Browns.
He'd played college football at Maryland State but went undrafted by the NFL. Clemons ended up on a semi-pro team in New Jersey, which is where a scout for the Cleveland Browns noticed him.
It was around 1964 to 1966, Clemons isn't too sure anymore. It was also right around the time the Browns had won their most recent NFL title and just missed another. Fullback Jim Brown was about to leave football for Hollywood.
During a semi-pro practice, Clemons apparently caught the eye of a Browns scout, who told the coach he wanted him to try out in Newark.
But the day before he was to show the Browns what he could do, Clemons slammed his blue Buick Riviera into a tree. He still remembers the out-of-body experience — hovering over the accident scene as emergency crews pulled him from the car. He awoke in the hospital. The wreck had nearly torn off an ear.
Clemons was told he could never play football again, which turned out for the best, if for no other reason than the sax solo on "Jungleland." In fact, let's listen right now.