Clark displays multidimensional talents

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Clark displays multidimensional talents

Story by Chad Mullens, Writer

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Playing for Brophy Prep High School in Phoenix, Clarence Clark earned East Valley Tribune Player of the Year in soccer. As a defender and team captain his senior year, Clark led his team to an Arizona state championship.

Clark received multiple offers to play soccer at the Division I level. However, he turned them all down to carry on his football career instead.

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Now, the freshman is the leading receiver and starting placekicker for the Baker University football team, and the first Wildcat in six years to be honored as the NAIA National Special Teams Player of the Week.

“I just enjoy the football atmosphere more, and by coming here I chose to continue with my football career,” Clark said.

Clark discovered Baker through the friendship between head coach Mike Grossner and his uncle Kevin Lockett, who played for Kansas State University as well as the Kansas City Chiefs.

Clark and his cousin Tyler, a Kansas State wide receiver, have been training with Lockett since Clark’s junior year of high school. Clark says Lockett has been “a really big asset to my success.”

Clark has proven to be a big play threat, scoring touchdowns of 57, 79 and 98 yards. He averages almost 22.8 yards per catch due to his speed.

“He’s our best receiver and our best kicker,” Grossner said. “I don’t think anyone (else) in the country has to worry about going 98 yards down the field, then 20 seconds later kicking the extra point.”

At times, that transition has been tough for Clark. He has missed two extra points following long scores and even more due to tiredness that sets in playing at wide receiver the entire game.

“Usually by the third or fourth quarter, my legs are pretty dead,” Clark said. “So there is a sort of fatigue factor, but I try not to let it show on the field.”

Clark had never considered kicking field goals for the Wildcats until Grossner approached him before the team’s training camp with a proposal.

“I came up to him and told him that we needed him to kick,” Grossner said. “Then I got this wide-eyed look, and I said, ‘You don’t do it all in one day,’ and I hired (former BU kicker Derek Doerfler) to help him, and he has helped Clarence tremendously both in terms of technique and the mental aspect.”

Clark was named Player of the Week after kicking two essential field goals on Saturday’s upset over Missouri Valley College. One came from 59 yards out to tie things up in the fourth quarter, and then a 52-yarder in overtime won the game for the Wildcats.

Clark never expected to make such an impact this early in his career.

“I was just hoping to get in the game a little bit, see if I could make a difference on the team,” Clark said. “I kind of just go wherever the coaches need me to go. I enjoy playing wide receiver, but if the coaches need me to kick all the time, I’ll go do it if it helps the team win.”

His team-first sentiment does not go unnoticed by Grossner.

“He’s really a team guy,” Grossner said. “The beauty of Clarence is that it’s not about him. He doesn’t go around saying, ‘Hey look at me, I’m the big man on campus.’ He’s very unassuming, and a great kid.”

The 59-yarder was just 3 yards from tying the school-record set by Doerfler in 2007. Clark has joked with Doerfler about eventually breaking the record.

“I was making fun of coach (Doerfler) after the game, saying ‘now you know I’m better than you,’ but he likes to come on the field and kick with us to show that he can really boom it,” Clark said.

In addition to his multidimensional talents on the football field, he is also on the track and field team. He will compete in the 200-meter dash, 400-meter dash and the long jump.

“The sky’s the limit for him,” Grossner said. “The thing with him is that he’s got so many different things going on throughout the year, will he be able to juggle everything?”

Grossner believes if Clark is able to improve his consistency, his kicking ability could potentially translate to the next level.

“Right now, he’s kicking field goals at an NFL level,” Grossner said. “I think if you check, there hasn’t been a kick made farther than 59 yards at any level, and this is his first year kicking, so how much better can he become? Kicking is kicking, it’s 8 yards behind the line of scrimmage, the uprights are the same width, everything is basically the same, so all he has to do is put it through.”