From Tiger Stadium to NFL glory
Although undrafted, Ryan Clark becomes Super Bowl Champion
When the NFL Draft comes around in April, more than 250 players will be selected by NFL teams.
But time and time again, we see that getting drafted into the NFL is no indicator of how a player’s career will play out.
LSU’s own Ryan Clark is living proof that going undrafted doesn’t have to be an obstacle.
It can be an opportunity.
After earning LSU Special Teams Player of the Year honors in 1998, Clark started his last 36 games for LSU at safety and finished second-team All-SEC in his junior year of 2000 with 99 tackles and two interceptions. Clark made 88 tackles and three picks in his senior season, but no one selected him in the 2002 NFL Draft.
It was his special teams prowess that gave him a chance in the NFL as the Giants signed his as a free agent where he played predominantly special teams in his rookie season.
In 2003, Clark appeared in all 16 games and began showing he could make plays on defense.
Clark began to show what he could do when he signed with the Redskins as a free agent in 2004.
After Washington’s starting safeties went down with injuries, Clark made the most of his opportunity when given the chance to start. He finished fourth on the team with 81 tackles.
Then in 2005, Clark made the first three interceptions of his career.
But it wasn’t until he signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers prior to the 2006 season that he became the player that we see today on Sundays.
Clark won the position battle to start opposite Troy Polamalu at safety, and he made 72 tackles, one interception and three fumble recoveries in his first season in Pittsburgh.
Unfortunately, Clark’s 2007 season ended early when a rare sickle cell trait led to serious health problems after a game in the thin air of Denver.
Because of this, Clark will never play a game at the Broncos ever again.
But even after losing 30 pounds, Clark defied the odds again and regained his starting spot in 2008, making 87 tackles and helping the Steelers win Super Bowl XLIII.
Clark made a career high 89 tackles and three interceptions in 2009 (after playing only 15 games because he sat out a game at Denver), and after 15 games so far this season, Clark is slated to set a new career high in tackles as he sits with 89 right now.
The Steelers host the Browns Sunday and are a win away from locking up the AFC North and a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
CLICK HERE for my previous installment highlighting WR Dwayne Bowe’s rise to NFL stardom.
CLICK HERE for my previous installment highlighting LB Bradie James’ continued stellar play for the Cowboys.
CLICK HERE for my previous installment highlighting CB Corey Webster’s Giant Super Bowl run.
CLICK HERE for my previous installment highlighting DE Glenn Dorsey overcoming a position change with the Chiefs.
CLICK HERE for my previous installment highlighting OG Alan Faneca’s continued consistency and toughness in the NFL.
CLICK HERE for my previous installment highlighting QB Matt Flynn continuing to make the most of his opportunities.
*Check back to Tigerrag.com throughout the month of December for more updates on former Tigers in the pros.