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Sikeston's Clark to play football for Razorbacks

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sikeston all-state linebacker Ray Clark will be a preferred walk-on at the University of Arkansas this fall. Clark finished his career with 397 tackles, the most in school history. David Jenkins, Staff
SIKESTON -- It sounded like a long shot, but Sikeston senior Ray Clark took a leap of faith.

He sent highlight tapes, information and anything else he could to the University of Arkansas for a chance to play for his favorite team.

"Just thought I would take a chance and give it a shot," Clark said. "I didn't really send anything to any other school. Arkansas was my very first choice of school regardless of what happened. I knew I wanted to play football somewhere and that would be my ultimate decision."

As it would turn out, Clark's persistence paid off. He was recently offered a preferred walk-on position with the Arkansas Razorbacks football team.

"The process was pretty unusual for me," Clark said. "I actually got in touch with some of their coaches first and they got back in touch with me. They knew I wanted to go to school there and they gave me the opportunity to walk-on."

Clark's recruiting process was a bit backwards from the traditional way. Usually, coaches seek the player. But in Clark's case, he pursued them.

"You never know unless you check into things," Sikeston head coach Kent Gibbs said. "I know Ray went down to Arkansas several times during the course of the season and, when it got right down to it, he wanted a chance to compete at the highest level he could compete and he's getting that opportunity.

"We're excited for him."

Clark's preferred walk-on status assures him a spot on the team.

"Whenever tryouts are held, I won't have to try out," said Clark. "I already have a spot on the team. They're still going to redshirt me and I have to go through all of their workouts this summer."

Arkansas is a Division I school that plays in arguably the toughest football conference in the nation -- the Southeastern Conference (SEC).

Arkansas coaches have told Clark he will probably see most of his time on the field as a safety, although, he is coming off a record-setting career at Sikeston High School as one of the state's top linebackers.

"One thing with Ray is that he's been a very productive player during his time here," said Gibbs. "He plays at a high level and he runs really well. His grades are nothing but an asset. You put all that together and he's put himself in prime position. How many people get a chance to even compete in the SEC?"

Clark accumulated 397 total tackles during his time as a Bulldog -- the most in Sikeston school history. He had 166 tackles last season, which is the second highest mark for a single season at Sikeston. Clark also had 161 during the 2009 season for the third spot in school history.

"I'm pretty comfortable there," Clark said about the safety position. "It won't involve a lot of me covering receivers down field. I'll be able to play in the run game also. I'll be able to come down and make big hits. That's what I naturally do so I'm ready for it."

Although he prefers defense, Clark said he holds no preference to what type of position Arkansas would want him to play. He just wants to help out.

"I sent them a highlight film and the first thing they asked me is if I wanted to play offense or defense," said Clark. "I told them it really didn't matter as long as I'm helping out the team."

While attending Arkansas, Clark plans on majoring in business administration -- which could bode well for him considering the Fayetteville, Ark., area is home to some 300 of the Fortune 500 companies.

"It'll be a long grind for him," said Gibbs. "He's got to be up for that and accept the challenge. If he does that he'll get the opportunity. If he does what he did here, I think he can be successful. We're hoping he does."

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