Will Clapp grew up in a house with three other football-playing boys and a father who was a former LSU defensive lineman.
You can imagine how that went.
“My wife has watched the house systematically get torn down, one brick at a time,” said Tommy Clapp, Will’s dad.
The Clapps have replaced the front door multiple times. They’ve had to replace bedroom doors, windows and patch holes in the wall.
The gang-up-style wrestling matches — the four sons vs. dad — morphed into serious one-on-one battles.
The duels were as customary in the home as, say, drinking a glass of milk. The family went through about 10 to 12 gallons of milk a week. The grocery bills rivaled the cost of the home repairs.
“When he built that house, it had beautiful hardwood floors. You had to take your shoes off to enter,” said William Clapp, Will’s namesake and Tommy’s dad.
“Two weeks later, they’re skateboarding in the house.
“Ever since then,” he said, “it’s been a knock-down, drag-out affair.”
Part of that physical affair has arrived at LSU. Not all of them — just the one, eldest son, Will.
Running back Leonard Fournette — the guy who’s currently averaging 210 yards a game — gets all of the front-stage glory, but the man behind the curtain is a 6-foot-5, 303-pound redshirt freshman right guard.
Will Clapp is the pull-heavy, contact-crazed, lead-blocking lineman paving the way for a running back who’s on pace to claim the most illustrious individual prize in all of sports.
“They run the ball consistently behind him, and when they don’t run behind him, they pull him playside,” Tommy said.
This isn’t just a proud papa talking.
A review of LSU’s last game — a 34-24 win over Syracuse — paints that picture.
About half of LSU’s designed 40 rushing plays were meant to go behind Clapp or involved him pulling as one of the lead blockers.
You know that 14-yard touchdown run from Fournette in the first half? Clapp pulled from his spot on the right side to crush a defender.
The Syracuse defensive lineman never saw Clapp coming until the big guy turned the corner and shoved him to the ground.
That 62-yard scoring jaunt from Fournette in the third quarter came directly behind Clapp.
He bolted from his spot at right guard, smacking an outside linebacker, eventually taking him to the ground.
“We use him a lot,” left tackle Jerald Hawkins said. “He plays a big role in this offense. He’s seeing a great amount of action for how young he is.”
It’s even surprised his father — from where he’s playing on the line to what he’s doing after the snap. Clapp was ranked as one of the top 15 guards in the nation out of high school in 2014, but he took a redshirt last season.
He worked at center for much of spring, started at center in the spring game and practiced at center for the first week of preseason camp. Coaches flipped him and Ethan Pocic, moving Pocic to the tricky position of center — the quarterback of the line.
That meant Clapp would become the key blocker for LSU’s bread and butter: Fournette left, Fournette right, Fournette center.
“I thought I knew what I was looking at when he was in high school. I knew he’d be successful,” Tommy Clapp said. “Biggest question for me was how he would block SEC players on the second level. He’s done well.”
He has dad to thank for some of his success — and a house full of 6-foot, 200-plus-pound brothers.
Tommy Clapp was a four-year starter on the defensive line for the Tigers from 1984-87 — a four-season run that included 36 wins, nine losses, three ties and a Southeastern Conference championship.
Clapp raised his boys to be physical, tough football players. Will is the oldest of four boys.
The remaining three are football players at Brother Martin in New Orleans.
There’s Jacob, Brother Martin’s senior starting right guard who’s had just as much success on the wrestling mat as the gridiron. He’s 6-1, 250.
Matthew is next. He’s a junior defensive tackle standing 6-1, 265. He’s receiving recruiting letters from the likes of LSU and others.
The baby is Michael, a 6-foot, 200-pound freshman linebacker and tight end.
“It was a physical house,” Will said. “A lot of bloody noses. Twelve gallons of milk a week. My mom shopped at the Restaurant Depot.”
The Restaurant Depot is a store meant for restaurant owners, not mothers. How much was the weekly grocery bill?
“It was,” Tommy said, “significant.”
Tommy calls his parenting “unorthodox.” He teases and pokes at his boys as if they were classmates, not sons. He wrestles them and coaches them in the art of playing in the trenches.
If it’s at the expense of a window, door or the coffee table, so what?
“Kids doors. Front doors. It doesn’t take much for one to come down when there’s an argument,” Tommy said. “If our family could have one of those reality TV shows, I’d be in the Bahamas retired right now instead of talking to you.”
When speaking about his father, Will sounds like a younger brother talking about his bullish, older sibling.
“He’s so old now he can barely get into a stance,” a smiling Will said.
Will and his brothers have watched a few of their father’s games.
What’d they do? Poked fun at him, of course.
“I dish it out,” Tommy said, “so I’ve got to take it.”
“I was making fun of him, the way he had his hair back in the ’80s,” Will said. “I was like, ‘Y’all are really old now.’ ”
Tommy calls Will a “switch kid.” He hits the so-called switch on the field.
“Off the field, laidback, kind of quiet. Real nice kid,’ Tommy said. “And then you put a helmet on him and something changes. He turns into a different person.”
Little Will’s success isn’t all natural from dad.
One of the big reasons he’s been so good: He knows defensive linemen well.
His dad was one, and he spent much of his younger days at defensive-line camps that his father forced him to attend.
He whined to his dad about it. Why, as an offensive lineman, would he be participating in a defensive lineman camp?
His father had an answer.
“I said, ‘Son, you’re learning in the den of the lions,’” Tommy said. “Not a lot of people have the opportunity to learn in reverse.”
It’s helped tremendously.
“When I see a guy try to set up a move,” Will said, “I’ll recognize it as some of the stuff he taught me.”
Tommy can spend hours talking about his days at LSU. Will hears about it a lot. If LSU plays a game against a team Tommy played 25 years ago, Will gets a tale about that team and that game.
One of Will’s favorites is the story about a star freshman running back from Florida whom his father played against in 1987.
There was a lot of buzz before that ’87 game against the Gators, and it surrounded this great running back. People called him “a freak” leading up to the game.
“My dad said he lived up to the hype,” Will said.
The running back: Emmitt Smith.
Will has seen a replay of that game.
And, naturally, the son gets a dig in on his old man about it.
“He definitely ran by my dad once or twice,” Will said.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter: @DellengerAdv.