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'I wasn't happy at Central': Linebacker Carlton Cleophat enters NCAA transfer portal in search of new home


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Central Michigan linebacker Carlton Cleophat walks into Kelly/Shorts Stadium for CMU's game against Maine on Sept. 22, 2018.

Carlton Cleophat played all 12 games as a true freshman for the Central Michigan football team.

After making three tackles and working primarily on special teams during the 1-11 season, he hit a roadblock in the second semester of school.

Every day, Cleophat said he woke up questioning why he was in Mount Pleasant.

"I wasn't happy at Central," Cleophat said. "I went the whole second semester without talking to anybody, literally isolating myself."

It also didn't help Cleophat's case that when he went back home to Pompano Beach, Florida for winter break, his mother, Marie Cleophat, told him she was diagnosed with cancer.

Cleophat said, due to his mother's illness, he knew deep down he couldn't stay far away, but he still wanted to give the second semester a chance.

"I just felt in my soul that Central wasn't for me," he said.

The 6-foot-, 211-pound linebacker recently entered the NCAA transfer portal and is looking for a school in Florida. He wants to be a short drive away from his mother – rather than a plane flight.

Cleophat said Division I FCS Bethune-Cookman is pushing the hardest for his services with a scholarship open. Meanwhile, Florida Atlantic (FAU) is "very interested" but doesn't have an open scholarship at the moment. He also plans to get in contact with Florida International (FIU) and South Florida (USF), two FBS programs.

"She was a huge part of my success when it came to football," Cleophat said of his mother. "I'm looking to stay close to her.

"She told me as long as I keep playing ball and furthering my education, she supports me 1,000 percent with my decision. She's proud of the man I'm becoming."

Entering the transfer portal does not always mean a player is guaranteed to transfer. It just gives them an option to look elsewhere. Other programs are now allowed to contact Cleophat. With this new model, players no longer need to request permission from their current programs to check out other schools.

However, Cleophat has no intention of returning to the Chippewas.

When meeting with Jim McElwain about the situation, Cleophat said the new CMU coach was understanding and even offered to help him get in contact with other programs.

Cleophat has three years of eligibility remaining and could be eligible immediately to play if he applies for a hardship waiver from the NCAA and is granted it.

When reflecting back on his short-lived career at CMU, Cleophat elaborated on his relationship with his roommates, running back Kobe Lewis and cornerback Montrae Braswell. He said they were the only two that knew what he was going through.

"I love those two to death and wish I could take them with me," Cleophat said. "They've been so supportive and did whatever they could to keep me up."

Before coming to CMU, Cleophat played for Blanche Ely High School. He recorded more than 250 tackles, 26 sacks, 10 forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries in his career. He was a two-time All-Broward County honorable mention by the Sun Sentinel.

Wherever Cleophat ends up, he said he's ready to give 110 percent of his effort – bringing speed, power, quick reaction and playmaking abilities to the program.

"I have a valid reason for everything I do now, which will make me even more of a dog."

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