Christian Clark tackles national spotlight as a former walk-on

Christian Clark:Christian Clark celebrates after a sack. :Bob Solorio - Hornet Sports

Christian Clark:Christian Clark celebrates after a sack. :Bob Solorio – Hornet Sports

Brad Schmidt

Sacramento State football defensive linemen Christian Clark went from a 2006 walk-on to a 2010 first-team preseason All-American and is poised to make a big impact for the Hornets.

Clark grew up in Los Angeles, where he played a number of different sports such as football, basketball, baseball, track and field and volleyball. Clark said his favorite sport of the all was basketball, but he knew it would never work because he can not jump very high.

Clark credits his father for getting him into sports as a youngster, but gives credit to his mother and godfather for helping him turn into the successful young man he is today.

“My mother gave me my guidance,” Clark said. “My godfather was my basketball coach. He instilled in me hard work, determination and passion for the game. He also taught me to listen to those that came before you and help those coming up behind you.”

Playing different sports in his childhood helped Clark make the important decision about which sport he wanted to pursue in college.

“They gave me a break from playing football so I didn’t get burned out,” Clark said. “I had a good opportunity to try different sports and pick the one that I was best at.”

Coming out of Palisades Charter High School, Clark was getting very little attention from college football scouts. Clark attended a lineman camp at the University of Pacific, where he met with a Sac State offensive line coach. Clark eventually got into contact with Lou Bias, who wanted Clark to walk on and play defense. So he did and never looked back.

Clark has started 22 straight games for the Hornets and is coming off of a huge year. Clark led all defensive linemen on the team with 44 tackles and led the Hornets with 15.5 tackles-for-loss. Clark also led the team with 10 sacks, which tied him for sixth-most in Hornet single-season history.

“When I first came here, I had goals set for myself and every year I’ve been trying to work towards those goals,” Clark said. “Especially coming from being a walk-on to where I’m at now, I have met all my goals except for one and that’s making the playoffs.”

Making the playoffs is Clark’s No. 1 goal for this upcoming season. He also said picking up where he left off last season and helping players behind him are his goals for this year.

Sac State’s defensive line coach Jon Osterhout said he knew he had a special player when he met Clark for the first time.

“He is very intelligent, has a high football IQ, and is very low key both on and off the field,” Osterhout said. “As I got to know him better, I saw his impeccable work ethic on the field and he’s one of the best practice players I’ve ever seen. He’s a coach’s dream.”

Clark is a proven leader on the defense. However, he is not someone you are going to hear yelling at teammates.

“I try to lead by my actions,” Clark said. “Anytime you have success, people tend to gravitate towards you and put you in a leadership role.”

Clark’s teammates are aware of his vast understanding of the game, as well as his ability to share with others what he knows.

“Clark is a team guy all the way,” said sophomore offensive lineman Aaron Gasper. “He shows that by mentoring all the younger defensive lineman in practice every day.”

Osterhout said he is aware of the importance of having a guy like Clark with a good work-ethic.

“Christian is received in the locker room very well,” Osterhout said. “He leads by example and is not your vocal leader that’s going to bark and yell, but he’s going to show up every day. I don’t think he’s missed a single practice since I’ve been here. He’s a true team guy that the football staff has really been able to rely on.”

Clark’s intensity on the practice field is something that separates him from other players.

“Christian brings it every day at practice,” Gasper said. “He expects everyone else at practice to bring it too and that makes us all better.”

Clark’s success has made him a recognizable name and said he is aware of what comes with that.

“I wouldn’t say there’s any added pressure, just higher expectations from others,” Clark said. “Once I step on the field, all that stuff goes out the window and I just focus on playing. I’ve put in the work so I don’t worry about other peoples’ expectations because I know the expectations I have for myself are higher than anyone else’s.”

Clark plans to graduate this fall while maintaining a 3.0 GPA.

“I hope to continue playing football,” Clark said. “If not, get a job – maybe as a firefighter. But I want to play the game as long as I can and ride ’til the wheels fall off.”

It’s not often that a walk-on ends up receiving All&-American honors in his career. Clark is someone that his coaches and the Sac State community should be proud to call their own.

“All it takes is for one team to fall in love with you,” Osterhout said. “His productivity stands for itself. It’s going to be hard for someone to get rid of him because of the way he shows up every day.”

Brad Schmidt can be reached at [email protected]