WICHITA, Kan. — Trace Clark's pedigree underscores why the Wichita Collegiate defensive end might be an impact player at Oklahoma State, possibly as early as this fall.
A four-year starter on offense and defense, Clark is the son of Steve Clark, a fifth round pick out of Kansas State who played two years for the New England Patriots.
Clark's brother, Zac, was Oregon's starting nose tackle two years ago in the national title game. Two sisters are Division I volleyball players.
“He knows enough watching their experiences that he's not going to walk into a program like Oklahoma State and feel he's the big man on campus,” said Wichita Collegiate coach Bill Messamore. “He knows the time and dedication needed. He'll earn his way.”
A two-sport star, Clark helped lead the Spartans, a private school, to a football state title as a sophomore. He also helped lead Wichita Collegiate to back-to-back basketball state titles as a freshman and sophomore.
A 6-foot-4, 245-pound defensive end, Clark compiled 106 tackles and six sacks this past season.
After narrowing his choices of 14 schools to OSU, Stanford and Iowa, Clark committed to the Cowboys in December. He watched the Fiesta Bowl with great interest.
“I was pulling really hard for the Cowboys, totally excited when they won,” Clark said Wednesday morning at his signing. “What a great game. In the end, when I made my decision, I felt most comfortable with the coaching staff at Oklahoma State.”
With three senior defensive ends leaving the program Clark could contribute as a true freshman. Because of his father's and sibling's backgrounds he understands it's sometimes beneficial to redshirt.
“He witnessed his brother playing in the Rose Bowl his first year (after junior college), then the national championship game,” said his father. “He has high ideas what this journey is going to be like because he's seen what it can be. He's looking forward to starting his own journey.”
Clark still has much room to fill out an athletic frame. He possibly could move inside to defensive tackle at some point although he's projected to stay at defensive end.
“He's a team player,” said his father. “He'll play wherever they need him to play. A lot of coaches felt he'd make a great D-1 tight end. He has nice, soft hands. Right now he's ready to be taught by a great teacher in (OSU defensive coordinator) Bill Young.”
A straight-A student who has posted a 93 grade or higher in every class at an academics oriented high school, Clark will be an engineering major, one reason he chose OSU.
“Through this process he got a taste of engineering,” said his father. “Right now he's leaning towards mechanical engineering but also has an interest in chemical engineering. His first two years are base courses which will help him decide which branch of the engineering tree he will go.”
On the field, Messamore said Clark plays every down as if it's last. One play that stands out is when Clark blocked a defender 30 yards downfield.
“And we were up 30 points at the time,” Messamore said. “He's that kind of kid. He's all-out effort all the time. I don't think anyone will out-work him in the weight room or the classroom.”
Regardless of how quickly he plays, his family's background has given him an example of what's necessary to excel in college academically and athletically.
“That's been a definite advantage,” Clark said. “It took a lot of stress out of the process and let me see the whole big picture which helped me make an educated decision. I want to play my freshman year. It all depends on how I work this off-season. I just have to work for it, go earn it.”
His father said two-a-days practices this fall will determine whether his son redshirts.
“If he's talented enough to get on the field his first year he'll get on the field,” Steve said. “Does he have expectations to be on the field his first year? Only if he's talented enough. If he needs to redshirt he can spend that year getting bigger, stronger, faster.
“He's an extremely patient kid, very cerebral. He's a leader but can also be a follower and he listens to authority. He knows what to do. Trace really is the total package.”