Awesome Article on Frank Clark

Submitted by StephenRKass on July 30th, 2014 at 12:39 PM

I rarely add a forum topic to the board, but there is an awesome and inspiring article on Frank Clark over at the Freep. Writer Mark Snyder goes into the desperate and challenging background Clark came from, the many obstacles and challenges he has faced, and some of his hopes for the future.


Here are a few quotes, more than usual, because some of you want to avoid clicking the Freep:

On his past, and the life he came from:

It wasn’t easy, drifting from shelter to shelter with his mother at night, her battling drug addiction. But Clark understood this was his life and he didn’t know much else. Until his friend was killed in a drive-by shooting in front of a church.

The boys weren’t even teenagers, but that was enough for Clark’s mother to put her son on his first plane, by himself, to live with his father’s family in Cleveland.

“Where I’m from, there’s not too many kids that make it past a certain age,” Clark explained at Tuesday’s Big Ten media days. “It’s the definition of what people look at like the ’hood. The struggles that I endured as a youth, things like … seeing my mom work multiple jobs just to put food in my and my brothers’ mouths. Finding a way to football practice even if I had to walk an hour and a half to get to practice. “My mom was tired of seeing me struggle after my brothers got older. She made the decision I had to move to Cleveland for it to be a better life.”

And regarding his potential:

Though he has yet to reach his freakish on-field potential, as a 277-pounder end who says he can run a 4.5 40-yard dash, Clark’s numbers and impact have steadily improved each year.

Nearly as important, he has stayed clear of off-field trouble. Given his roots, that’s no small feat.

“We always believed that Frank is going to get it,” Hoke said Tuesday. “You go back to Ted Ginn and how he’s handled everything. And Greg Mattison, the relationship he and Frank have had since Day 1. And the relationship Frank and I have had since Day 1. One that’s always been very honest and sometimes not fun for Frank. Or not fun for a coach either.”

Clark has first-round NFL potential. But to reach that, he’ll need to make a leap to the upper echelon.

And lastly, about his future, and dreams for his mom:

“My mother struggled with drugs and it inspires me to do the best I can on the field,” he said. “Because I always want to help her. I want to put money back in her pocket. I used to watch her work to put food in my mouth, despite her addiction. It came to a point where I can do that, that’s all I want to do. She’s still my mother. Despite all the disagreements, the arguments, at the end if it wasn’t for my mother, I wouldn’t be here. I probably would have ended up somewhere in California.

“I’m so happy she made it for me to leave so I could come to Cleveland.”

She hasn’t seen a game in person and Clark made that one of his goals this season, hoping his mother could attend at some point, maybe even senior day.

I wish Clark well, really hope he has a breakout season, and puts everything together this year.


turd ferguson

July 30th, 2014 at 12:49 PM ^

I think this raises an interesting issue, which Nick Saban touched on during the SEC media days.  Clark could have been dismissed from the team after his laptop thing, and a lot of people claimed that keeping Clark was evidence that Hoke wasn't serious about discipline.  (Granted, many of those voices are the geniuses among our rivals' fan bases.)  But it's really hard to imagine that dumping him then would have been better for Clark - or for most of the guys in his position.  Maybe it would have deterred other guys from doing similarly stupid things, but it's not like we've had loads of similar behaviors since then. 

I'll paste Saban's line below.  It's Saban, so there's way more asshole here than there needs to be, but I think it's an intriguing point:

"There's not one player, not one player, since I've been a head coach that I kicked off the team that ever went anywhere and amounted to anything and accomplished anything, playing or academically"


July 30th, 2014 at 1:01 PM ^

That's a more generous interpretation of what Saban said than what I got when I first read it. I thought he was just kicking dirt on all the kids he's put on unjustified medical scholarships over the years. But if he's defending not kicking a kid off the team, that's much less of a douchey thing to say. Does the full context of the quote make it clear which of those things he's doing?


July 30th, 2014 at 3:05 PM ^

Turd, you make a great observation. I am very thankful that Frank Clark was given another chance by Hoke. I have done plenty of stupid things in my life, as all of us have. The scrutiny the athletes are under is intense, and with social media, is much worse than it was years ago.

I fully support coaches (whether here or with rivals) who work with giving their players a second chance and helping them to succeed in life. I don't want to get into a debate about any particular situations, but I think we should give some grace to coaches of competitors who aren't immediately evicted from the team on the basis of boneheaded decisions.

turd ferguson

July 30th, 2014 at 3:34 PM ^

I agree.  I really like the year-long suspension approach that we've seen for Stonum and Hagerup.  That punishment would hurt from the players' perspective, because they go a year without football (and probably feel embarrassed and guilty), but if they use the time to get their lives together, it gives them an opportunity to still take advantage of the opportunities they have like a possible NFL career, Michigan degree, etc.  It also gives players time to reassess their decision-making and life trajectories.


July 30th, 2014 at 12:58 PM ^

(EDIT:  Meant to be in response to Hail 2 Victors.) Thankfully, for me at least, things have been great at both mgoblog and touch the banner (thank you, Magnus,) so I rarely scroll past anything that's offensive to anyone. Mgoblog has the Mrs. StephenRKass seal of approval.

Although, the bigger issue is how much time I spend following Michigan, and sports in general. I'm cutting back, but it is hard. I actually ran into an mgoblogger at a conference who recognized me from my nametag. That was wierd.

Regarding being a football fan in general, and time spent with that instead of your spouse, I realize that my daughter and son-in-law are dealing with the same thing. She is in the Navy, and he is a huge football fan, following multiple games every weekend from mid-August all the way through the Super Bowl. (more of an NFL that NCAA fan.) Anyway, I told him it was too bad she couldn't schedule her deployments to run from late August through January. That way, he could just work, sleep, eat, watch football, and play videogames. Perfect life for a 20 year old male. I don't know that either of them were amused.


July 30th, 2014 at 1:02 PM ^

That was what I immediately thought too. I would gladly chip in a couple bucks for a flight and a hotel room, but I'm sure that is completely impossible. I can see why some people from challenging circumstances stay close to home:  otherwise, it would be close to impossible for friends and family members to ever see them live at a game.


July 30th, 2014 at 1:06 PM ^

A great story. It is good to see a young man (and his mom) both buy into not becoming a sad statistic. Shows it is possible, though not easy. As a teacher, I see so many kids who have the opportunity to break the vicious cycle they are in, but end up falling right back in.

I know the university can't do anything to help the Mom get to a game... but can the booster club or fans? Or does that violate the rules?


July 30th, 2014 at 1:53 PM ^

I am wondering this too. Can we set up a crowd funding fund for it?? It seems kind of ridiculous that we can't help these parents see their kids play live. I understand they don't want promises of free airfare to interfere with proper recruiting, but geez!!


July 30th, 2014 at 1:06 PM ^

When someone grows up in a place so bad that Cleveland is an improvement and makes it to the University of Michigan, it's impossible not to root for him.


July 30th, 2014 at 1:20 PM ^

SRK, I wanted to thank you for the book recommendation earlier this Summer, "The Killer Angels".   It was a great vacation read, and I look forward to picking up another one by Shaara.  




July 30th, 2014 at 1:40 PM ^

Glad you enjoyed it. I'm actually re-reading it myself, and enjoying the book more the second time (picking up details I missed before, especially after spending time in DC and Virginia and Pennsylvania this summer.) Regarding other books by Shaara, remember that his son is also an author, and continued the series after his father's death. Shaara's son is good, but not quite as good as his father, in the prequel and sequel to Killer Angels.


July 30th, 2014 at 2:10 PM ^

So I read Killer Angels before visiting Gettysburg, it was amazing seeing the battlefield and bringing the unfortunately very real characters and landscape to life. The other two books in the series are also excellent, though Killer Angels was my favorite and is viewed by most as the best of the series. His son did an excellent job continuing the books, and I'd highly recommend finishing the series. Chamberlain's life is absolutely remarkable, I learned so much from the books. Now I want to read them again!


July 30th, 2014 at 2:20 PM ^

I'd probably start at the beginning. I'm a bit of a junkie for this kind of history. I actually listened to all of them as books on tape, which is a great way to spend hours in the car. The thing I like about the books is the maps, and really studying them and understanding them. As regards the maps, my major recommendation is to spend time on the land. Go to Gettysburg, and some of the other battlefield sites, if you can. There are a number of sections in Killer Angels about the ground. If you've ever played paintball, or capture the flag on a slope, you'll have a better sense of how important it is to have a good position. Next on my list is to watch Ken Burn's PBS series on the Civil War (partially inspired, IIRC, by Killer Angels.)

In a different vein, I am now reading collected writings of George Washington, which gives a fascinating picture of who he was that is often lost (or shaded) by various biographies.


July 30th, 2014 at 2:30 PM ^

If you don't mind the input of another Shaara fan, you might want to start with Gone for Soldiers, which covers the Mexican War and has several of the same characters that appear in the Civil War trilogy. As for the trilogy (Gods and General, The Killer Angels, and The Last Full Measure) cover the few years prior to the war, and then all the way to the end. It's very good. I agree with StephenRKass: Jeff isn't the writer his father was - but then, few are. But he tells a good story, and they're a good read.

One tip: DO NOT see the film version of Gods and Generals. That couldn't suck more if it tried.

Jeff Shaara also wrote a trilogy of WWII that I'm currently into: The Rising Tide, The Steel Wave, and No Less Than Victory. I've read the first two, and thoroughly enjoyed them. He's also written two other books on the Civil War (A Blaze of Glory, The Smoke at Dawn) and a Pacific WWII book (The Final Storm), but I haven't read them yet.

Hope this helps.


July 30th, 2014 at 2:36 PM ^

So, I haven't seen "Gods and Generals," which was pretty universally panned. But it is worth seeing "Gettysburg," a pretty good movie starring Jeff Daniels (in the role of Chamberlain.) Watching the movie right after reading the book, you could see numerous pieces of dialogue that come straight from the pages of Killer Angels. The movie also helps somewhat with getting a better sense of the land.


July 30th, 2014 at 5:58 PM ^

Gettysburg was very good. I got to see the premiere at the Fox Theatre in 1993, and have watched it a dozen times since. Daniels, Sam Elliot, and Stephen Lang were the standout performances. And a buddy of mine played the "Cocky Young Lieutenant" in the Little Round Top scenes.

And if you haven't seen Ken Burns' Civil War, you'll love it - it's fantastic. For a Civil War junkie (like me), it's like 11 hours of really good meth. Or something like that. (You get the point.)


July 31st, 2014 at 12:11 AM ^

was used quite extensively by the US Army in many officer and NCO development classes.  The cast, crew, and director did a terrific job not only telling the story (mostly historically correct) but also the very human elements of leadership and discipline and the ethos required to meld a cohesive and effective unit.  Made for great round table discussions.

A very much shorter movie with much the same message and lessons is 12 o'clock High with Gregory Peck and Dean Jagger.  That too was used extensively by the armed forces, most notably the Air Force, though it predates me by a few decades.


July 31st, 2014 at 8:17 PM ^

12 O'Clock High was a good film, and I can see where it would be used in such a discussion. Peck plays an ass-kicker general who replaces a commanding officer whom he believes has become too emotionally attached to the men he commands. Except through the course of the film, the same thing happens to Peck. I believe Jagger won an Oscar for his understated performance as the squadron adjutant. Good movie all the way around.


July 31st, 2014 at 8:20 PM ^

Excellent recommendation. Catton's writing was so conversational, it was often like hearing your favorite uncle telling great stories. His books (passed down from my Dad) helped me become a full-fledged Civil War geek.


July 30th, 2014 at 5:34 PM ^

Just to pile on with everyone else, both the Shaaras are fantastic writers. Jeff did an admirable job picking up where his father left off. He really came into his own with the two book set on the American Revolution (Rise to Rebellion and The Glorious Cause). If you read no more Shaara than that, at least read those two.

He is now in the middle of writing a set on the Civil War western theatre and they are quite good as well.

Also, Michael Shaara wote For the Love of the Game which is a fantastic story that Kelly Preston tried to massacre on the big screen.


Fun fact, you can get signed first editions each time Jeff releases a new book direct from his website. See


July 30th, 2014 at 1:37 PM ^

I guess this shows that I've not been at the blog quite as much:  this is literally the first time I've seen Mrs. StephenRKass. A pleasure to meet you. What a wild experience. I have been, FTR, on a service trip (Hurricane Sandy,) then vacation in Manhattan and Brooklyn and Virginia (visiting daughter in Navy south of DC,) and just back from a glorious week in the U.P. in the Les Cheneaux Islands area. Now catching up at work. Still addicted to the blog, but I don't much like posting from a  Samsung Galaxy.


July 30th, 2014 at 1:24 PM ^

"If that happens, there might be a unique bowl game available, just outside Los Angeles: the Rose Bowl."

This would be awesome for both Clark and his mother if this was the game she got to see of all the games. We shall see what happens during the season, of course, but that was a very moving article, I thought, and hopefully he can get her up to Ann Arbor to see a game and put together a great season for himself so he give back as he wants.

Thanks for sharing this.


July 30th, 2014 at 7:06 PM ^

Wouldn't it be outstanding, though, for the team to make it an open secret that they wanted to get to the Rose Bowl specifically to make it possible for Clark's mother to see him play?  That's the kind of easy-to-relate-to and immediate goal that can keep a team going when more hypothetical or philisophical goals seem hazy with distance.

Sten Carlson

July 30th, 2014 at 3:31 PM ^

If you're going to Gettysburg, try to get over to Antitam as well -- you cannot come away unchanged. I had a very spooky/spiritual/surreal experience upon first setting foot at the highwater mark in GBurg -- I'd never been the but yet I KNEW that I had.

Killer Angels, Gone For, and God's and Generals are all brilliant. Civil War combat was beyond brutal -- it's amazing anyone survived. Since WW1 is now 100 years in the past, it's amazing to think that essentially general still commanded troops on the field like Longstreet lamented in the 1860's in the 19teens -- and even after the advent of the machine gun.


July 30th, 2014 at 7:13 PM ^

"it's amazing to think that essentially general still commanded troops on the field like Longstreet lamented in the 1860's in the 19teens -- and even after the advent of the machine gun."

That's a common myth, but untrue.  By the Nineteen-teens, armies fought using cover, since they didn't still use muzzle-loaders that required soldiers to fight standing up.  And it was the howitzer with explosive shells, not the machine gun, that made attacking so bloody.


July 30th, 2014 at 5:37 PM ^

What? Is there another Frank Clark on the team? I mean he's got an interesting life story and he seems to be doing fine now, but this is blatant fudging of the truth.