Ex-college hoopster Michael Clark gets shot at WR with Pack
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Wide receiver Michael Clark gave up basketball to chase his football dream in college.
The road led him all the way to Lambeau Field for his NFL debut Saturday night.
With injuries taking a toll on the Packers’ receiving corps, Clark could get more chances to make an impression on coach Mike McCarthy when Green Bay wraps up its season on Sunday against the Detroit Lions.
”It feels like I’ve been waiting forever for this to happen,” Clark said after practice Wednesday.
The 6-foot-6 Clark played in 12 college basketball games as a freshman in the 2014-15 season at St. Francis of Pennsylvania, a small school in the Northeast Conference. But football, a sport he hadn’t played since his freshman year in high school in Tampa, Florida, kept tugging at Clark.
So he gave up his basketball scholarship to play football and landed at Marshall. He got reacquainted with the sport while redshirting in 2015 before debuting in 2016 with 37 catches for 632 yards and four touchdowns.
With a year of eligibility remaining, Clark decided to take his sparse resume and turn pro. Clark went undrafted but landed with the Packers. With his size, Clark stood tall but he didn’t immediately stand out.
”It was foreign. Just words,” Clark said of the playbook. ”All that stuff blew past me. I couldn’t keep up in meetings. Just found myself spacing out a lot. I couldn’t keep up at all.”
Once Clark caught up, his skill came to the forefront. He made some splash plays in training camp but failed to make the roster and toiled for most of the season on the practice squad. Clark was added to the active roster on Dec. 1 and played in his first game against the Vikings.
With star receiver Davante Adams inactive with a concussion and veteran receiver Jordy Nelson lost late in the first half with a shoulder injury, Clark wound up getting extensive playing time. He was targeted a team-high nine times, catching three for 36 yards. Quarterback Brett Hundley turned to Clark in key spots, with a pair of third-down passes and three more on fourth down.
”I’ve been with Brett since camp, building his confidence in me and making plays,” Clark said. ”Everybody sees me making plays, so who wouldn’t want to throw it to me?”
With his size, Clark makes for an inviting target.
”Just a big dude,” Hundley said. ”He’s just a good receiver. He’s been busting his butt for the past year and he’s developed every day, every week, and I cannot wait to see what he brings this week and what he turns into this year.”
Clark figures to play a key role this week against the Lions. Adams remains in the concussion protocol, and McCarthy said it will be tough for Nelson to return this week.
They were two of seven players not practicing on Wednesday, a list rounded out by receiver Geronimo Allison (illness), guard Jahri Evans (knee), running back Aaron Jones (knee), tight end Richard Rodgers (shoulder), outside linebacker Nick Perry (shoulder/ankle).
With so much talent potentially sidelined for Sunday, Clark might be line for more targets in Detroit. He’d like to use a strong performance as a starting point for next season.
”If you’re not confident in yourself, I wouldn’t be here,” Clark said. ”Stuff like this doesn’t happen by accident. I had confidence in myself, I knew I could do it and that’s what I did.”