tampabay.com

Barriers keep falling for ex-area star

Wolfpack and former Chamberlain WR Brian Clark has proven to be a breakaway threat despite his size.

By GREG AUMAN
Published December 30, 2005


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Brian Clark likes the idea of going further than he expected.

Four years ago, colleges were hesitant to recruit the Chamberlain receiver because of his grades, unsure whether he could improve his grade-point average and test scores enough to meet NCAA eligibility requirements.

"It was a hold-your-breath kind of Christmas that year, waiting for that letter with my scores," said Clark, who got the necessary scores and signed with North Carolina State, where he'll finish his senior season Saturday against USF in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. "A lot of the big-name schools, they stopped with the letters, but coach (Chuck) Amato stuck with me and told me we would work it out."

Again this fall, the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder sought to prove his doubters wrong, this time trying to shed being tagged as a possession receiver because of his size. After averaging 11.7 yards last season with a long of 26, he has become a big-play threat, scoring on touchdowns of 96 and 80 yards and averaging 21.4 on his 22 catches.

"Just because I'm my size doesn't mean I'm a slow receiver," said Clark, who leads the Wolfpack with five touchdowns this season, as many as he caught in his first three. "They assume you're not quick and fast, but I'm always trying to prove them wrong."

Clark had 10 touchdowns as a Chamberlain senior, helping his team to the Class 5A championship game, and coach Billy Turner said Clark is faster than former teammate Greg Lee, now a standout receiver at Pittsburgh who will enter the NFL draft this spring.

"The guy can fly," said Turner, recalling Clark's high school track days as a sprinter. "You see his size, but he doesn't lope like Keyshawn Johnson. He has quick feet and good speed for a 6-2 kid. I don't know why he wouldn't be a good prospect on the pro level."

Two years ago, Clark was coming off a 33-reception, 548-yard season catching passes from eventual first-round pick Philip Rivers and was hailed as N.C. State's next great receiver.

"I was pretty much the guy to keep the great receiver tradition going, and by no means of my own, it didn't work out that way," said Clark, who turned 22 Monday. "Without pointing any fingers, it didn't work out. I was out there, but I wasn't getting all the balls. But things have worked out real well for me, and I'm making the most of my opportunities."

Clark has benefited from working with first-year receivers coach Dwayne Dixon, who built a reputation at Florida for molding future NFL draft picks such as Reidel Anthony, Jacquez Green, Darrell Jackson and Travis Taylor. Dixon said much of Clark's big-play capabilities start with his confidence.

"Once he catches a ball, he feels like he shouldn't be caught," Dixon said. "He can get behind people, there's no question. I've found him to be very coachable, someone who really wants to be better, to show he can make it at the next level."

Clark hopes he can have a game against USF like Pittsburgh's Lee has had, scoring three touchdowns last season and another in this season's win against the Bulls. Clark attended summer passing camps at USF and said the Bulls jumped on him late in the recruiting process, too late for him to consider them seriously.

His family has traveled from Tampa for his final college game, and his cheering section of about 10 friends and family will include his wife of 11/2 years, Shawntae, a fellow Chamberlain graduate. Saturday is his final college game, but he believes his career is only starting.

"I want to be the best, and the NFL is where all the best players are," he said. "I know my name's not out there in terms of big numbers, but I want to show everyone I can play hard and make things happen."