Signing day extra special for East Hamilton’s Clark after overcoming brutal injury
In late August, just after surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee and before grueling rehabilitation work began, Lake Clark feared his days of competitive football were over. His senior season as the starting quarterback at East Hamilton High School had been lost before the start, following the brutal injury he suffered in a scrimmage less than two weeks before the first game of his team.
At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds and with a knack for delivering the ball to receivers with a flick of the wrist, Clark had thrown for over 1,900 yards as a junior — including 438 yards and five touchdowns in one game — to win. interests from nearly half a dozen mid-level and FCS programs prior to the injury.
But after the injury, as he watched helplessly from the sidelines every Friday night and calls from curious college coaches no longer buzzed through his cellphone, Clark would have found it hard to believe he would get another chance. to continue competing in the game he’s been playing since he was five years old.
National signing day is special for every high school player who has the opportunity to sign a college scholarship. For Clark, who signed scholarship papers Wednesday to attend and play for Emory & Henry College, it was even more meaningful.
“I know what it’s like to have the game pulled out for a long time,” Clark said. “I know it can end in the snap of a finger. That’s why I rehabilitated very hard and why I’m going to go hard every day in training and make the most of every opportunity.
“I was at my lowest around the third week of the season last year. I had no offers, I didn’t get any calls from coaches and I didn’t even know if I would even have the chance to continue with a team. It was brutal. I wondered if the last game I got to play was going to be our loss in the playoffs in my junior year.
“But, I just kept doing what my doctors told me to do with my rehabilitation, and once I was cleared to start training, I did as hard as I could. they let me do it and I never looked back.”
Winning a college athletic scholarship is a rare accomplishment. According to NCAA figures, only about 7% of high school football players receive one and those numbers are certainly lower for players who miss their entire senior season due to a serious knee injury.
But Clark persevered through those massive obstacles, mostly through simple, old-fashioned hard work. He started moving and stretching his surgically repaired knee the day after the procedure and after just two weeks he was cleared to do short squats. He gradually built up to the point where he was squatting 275 pounds before the start of the new year and now, less than six months from surgery, he’s back on the football field, rolling, sliding and pulling again. spirals towards the receivers.
“Some people say they hate training, but that’s what I’ve been missing – the grind and the work to get better,” Clark said. “It took me a while to get my confidence back and not worry about hurting my knee again, but now I’m just grateful to have another chance to keep playing. It’s a huge relief. “
A Division II program in Emory, Va., the Wasps compete in the same South Atlantic Conference as Carson Newman and Tusculum — two of the programs that originally recruited Clark before his injury. He chose Emory & Henry over Cumberland University, and also received an offer to join the Austin Peay program as his favorite walk-on.
Center receiver/running back Donovan Smith and McMinn County runner Jayden Miller also signed with the Wasps on Wednesday, and Hurricanes all-state teammate Juan Bullard — a Mr. Football semifinalist — has Emory and Henry as one of the finalists he’ll choose next week.
“It’s always a shame that Lake couldn’t play his senior season with his teammates, and the exposure he would have gotten playing,” East Hamilton coach Grant Reynolds said. “But he proved what kind of young man he is by the way he handled everything. Even though he couldn’t play on Fridays, he was still a leader for us in training and on the sidelines during games. .
“He worked very hard to recover from his injury and never wavered in his resolve. He didn’t give up and now he’s earned a chance to come back and prove himself again.”
Contact Stephen Hargis at [email protected] or 423-757-6293.
Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / East Hamilton (3) Lake Clark throws a pass at Red Bank High School on Friday October 22, 2021. Red Bank hosted East Hamilton on Friday in Red Bank’s return game.