Oct. 29, 2001
MANHATTAN, Kan. -
by Kristin Kinney, Kansas State Sports Information student assistant
Brandon Clark has everything a coach wants in an athlete. Determination, hard work and a great positive attitude makes him a tremendous player on a team. But to Clark, playing sports is just a way of life. It's that thinking that has led him to want to continue with sports after graduation, not necessarily playing them but on the other side, coaching.
Since day one, playing sports was what Clark grew up loving to do. Everything from basketball, football, baseball and track were sports that he participated in, just in high school. As a young boy he could be found playing sports with his nephews in his backyard, said Rhonda Clark, Brandon's mother.
"He grew up in a sports-like family. His dad played basketball in college and his uncles have played too," Rhonda Clark said. "Our whole family is sports-minded. We have a basketball goal set up in the backyard along with a soccer goal too."
Clark first started playing football in eight grade because it was something that his friends were doing so he too wanted to be a part of it. However, this seemed to be a sport that didn't come with ease and because of that he didn't think that it was fun. But little did he know once he started playing, he would be loving the game and would be inspired from his high school football coach to want to walk in his steps after graduating from college.
Growing up in Valley Center, Kan. a small town with the population of 3,200, Clark thought that the only jobs there were for teachers.
"Valley Center is a very small town," Clark explained. "My grandparents had a farm about 45 minutes away and we would go there often. First I wanted to be a part-time teacher and a farmer when I was little, but both of my parents are in the education system. My mom is a first grade teacher and my dad is an education administrator. So, I always wanted to be a teacher and when I was growing up I just loved my coaches so I wanted to be like them too."
Clark's love for playing sports, created a sense of wanting to be a part of as many teams as he could play. In fact, he was participating in so many teams in high school, his track coach made him decide between track and baseball, which he was playing centerfield for. He chose track and for a good reason, he was an excellent at running.
"He is an extremely fast runner," said Wade Wilbur, fellow high school football teammate and friend. "In high school he had never ran the hurdles until a couple weeks before the meet, but he placed first at state. The track coach thought that he should go ahead and run the hurdles. So, when he started running he didn't have any form at all, he just took little steps and then just leaped over them and sprinted. He managed to win all of the meets at the end of the season doing this. Everyone would stop to look and laugh because it looked so funny, but he was such a good athlete he could do that and win. The fact was that an inexperienced hurdler-runner could accomplish this feat was unbelievable. All of the opponents couldn't believe it either because they looked at him like this guy who looks horrible at doing this is beating us out of the waters."
Along with winning the Kansas 5A State high school 300 and 400-meter hurdles as a senior, Clark also won the long jump as a sophomore and junior and set the records at Valley Center High School in the 200 meters and 400 meters.
Although he had many successes in track, it was his high school football Coach Mike Smith that inspired Clark to consider coaching as a profession. It didn't take Smith long to see that Clark was a special kid who had a lot of talent, but it was his overall personality in turn that he too inspired his coach.
"In my twenty-five years of coaching, Brandon is probably the best athlete I have ever coached," said Smith. "Since I have been coaching, he has been one of the hardest workers I have ever had. There were many times I would find him putting in many hours at the weight room when everyone else was at home. Hopefully, I have had an impact on his life, because I know that he has had an impact on a lot of kids around here. How he treated people with respect and the humbleness Brandon conveyed made him a great kid to coach."
When the road led him to play football at K-State, Clark was placed at wide receiver. However, injuries have plagued him throughout his time as a Wildcat.
"That was really tough," explain Clark. "My friends and family have backed me up and kept me strong. They have always told me that you may have hurt yourself, but it's going to make you a better man when you have bounced back from this and I have relied upon that."
During his is sophomore year, during the Kansas game, a fellow teammate crushed all of the bones in his foot. Because both were running at the same time, it was a pretty bad injury that led to eight months of recovery. Since then, both of his feet have been broken, leading to a lot recovering time.
"He is a model for guys who get injured. It's so easy to give up when you are injured, especially when you have as many injuries as he has had," said offensive line Andy Eby.
K-State wide receivers coach Greg Peterson defined Clark as "a very positive and very focused young man who knows what he wants to accomplish."
"Although he has had some set backs though his time here he has never let it derail him from what he has wanted to accomplish," Peterson said. "All of the years of working with Brandon, he is as positive and happy today playing as he was when he arrived here. I think that is a compliment to his character and personality and a definite reflection of his mother and father of how he was raised. You never have to motivate to coach him. He is a type of guy that you enjoy to coach, because you never have to share something with him more than one time. I am very fortunate to work with guys of his character. And if there is a guy you would ever like to bring home to your mom its Brandon."
When he is not playing football you can find him chatting with those who know him from his hometown. Elementary school kids who have heard of him and his successes growing up in Valley Center come and visit twice a year to listen and be inspired from him, explained Wilbur.
"When they come up they like to spend a weekend with him. He really enjoys doing things with young kids," Wilbur. "He tries to make a difference in their lives and to make a positive role model for them. When he goes back home he tries to make time to substitute teach, because he just really enjoys doing things like that."
Graduating in May of 2002 Clark will be handed his diploma in the field of secondary education, so that one day he can live out his dream of coaching.
"I'm graduating in secondary education because I want to coach football, track and basketball too if they will let me do more than two sports," Clark said. "I have already been coaching teams here at the rec (recreation center), a girls T-ball team and a women's soccer team. The first team I coached was soccer. I tried to do guy's but they needed a coach for girls because they needed them more, so I went ahead and agreed. Then I tried to coach little boys T-ball but they put me with the girls again."
Clark's high school coach, Mike Smith summarized his future the best.
"Brandon is going to be successful in life in whatever he does. Whether he is a football coach, or if he does have a chance at being a pro-athlete, or if he does something else, I have no doubt that he will be successful."