EDMOND — Steve Largent. Lynn Swann. Wes Welker.
All three are receivers who are not that big and not very intimidating to look at, even in a pad-fortified football suit.
But the impact they've made has been nothing short of insurmountable.
Marquez Clark, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound wide receiver, carries that kind of freight for the University of Central Oklahoma.
UCO dropped a 48-16 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association decision to Central Missouri on Saturday afternoon at Wantland Stadium, but not before Clark made his mark.
The junior from Texarkana, Texas, described by a couple press box patrons as “the best player in the entire conference” or “the real deal” finished with 12 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown. And that was just a typical day in the world of Clark, who figures to rate as one of UCO's finest receivers once his brief Division II career is finished.
“He is a good football player, a really good football player,” UCO coach Nick Bobeck said. “I'm proud of him. He's done a whole lot for our football team.”
Clark was a D-I target coming out of Navarro Junior College (Texas). As a sophomore, Clark set a National Junior College Athletic Association single-season receiving record with 1,639 yards and 14 touchdowns on 98 receptions. The first-team All-American signed with Kansas State out of junior college but failed to meet academic requirements.
He decided to enroll at UCO, which hired former Navarro head man Bobeck as its coach. Bobeck brought along quarterback Adrian Nelson, who, with Clark's assistance, set several passing records at Navarro. Although Clark still had to sit out the 2012 UCO season, the Nelson-to-Clark chemistry has continued this fall. The roommates have connected 41 times this season for 736 yards and four touchdowns.
Only once this season has Clark finished a ballgame under 100 yards receiving — and that was still a respectable 99 yards and TD on eight catches during a Sept. 14 game vs. Pittsburg State (Kan.).
“Me and Adrian built a very strong relationship at Navarro, on the field,” said Clark, who played running back or quarterback at Liberty-Eylau High School. “But then off the field, it became even stronger. We became roommates, and he's ended up as my best friend. With me, and Adrian and Bobeck, it's a very tight relationship.
“I knew that if I couldn't go to Kansas State that I was going to come here and play under Coach Bobeck and with Adrian.”
The past two Saturdays, with Nelson sidelined with a wrist injury, Clark has been just as effective with redshirt freshman T.J. Eckert. Clark has 17 catches for 251 yards. Eckert threw his first collegiate touchdown pass on Saturday; Clark caught the ball at the 11-yard line, followed a block from halfback C.J. Carson and bulled into the end zone to draw the Bronchos within 21-9.
Clark is just as dangerous as on special teams. On Oct. 5, against Missouri Western, he returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown — the first punt return for a score at UCO since 2003.
Clark leads NCAA Division II in all-purpose yards (238.1); is second in receiving yards (987); second in receiving yards per game (141.0); and second in punt return average (23.3).
“I just go in with the same mindset every game,” Clark said. “I just know I'm going to go out and give it my 110 percent, regardless of what our record is. I just hope and pray the guys who are playing with me are giving the same kind of effort.”
The Bronchos (0-7) never led Saturday in front of an estimated 1,200 fans as Central Missouri (3-4) scored on six of its first eight possessions. The Mules had 153 yards and two touchdowns rushing from Taylor LaVance, and quarterback Hayden Hawk passed for 321 yards and three TDs. Ronrei Lloyd torched UCO's young secondary for eight catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns.