Chuck Clark is one of the quiet guys on Tech’s football team, but the free safety’s actions on the football field and in the classroom speak rather loudly.
By Jimmy Robertson
The players on Virginia Tech’s football team take competitiveness to its highest level. They compete in everything from bowling to video games to rapping and more. Such a trait enables them to enjoy success both on and off the football field.
But competitiveness isn’t limited to football players, or even athletes, as Chuck Clark witnessed last spring. As an intern for Blacksburg Parks and Recreation, he set up a room for a group to use to play bridge, a popular card game, particularly among older adults. At times, the game became a touch heated.
“It was pretty intense,” Clark said. “People take it seriously.”
The same could be said of Clark, a young man who takes everything seriously and who quietly wrapped up an outstanding career this past season as the starting free safety for the Hokies.
That the Suffolk, Virginia product quietly concluded his career comes as no surprise to those who know him. Clark is not much for idle chitchat, nor is he one to get crazy on weekends. Good luck to those hoping to find this young man perusing the establishments in downtown Blacksburg.
Clark instead prefers to stay at his place. Actually, one would be more apt to find him in Virginia Tech’s indoor practice facility putting in some extra work. He enjoys his “happy hour” there, particularly this winter, as he prepared for the NFL Scouting Combine held in Indianapolis and then the Virginia Tech’s Pro Day in March.
“I’ll go in there and work out and do drills, stuff like that,” he said of the time spent in the practice facility. “It’s that important to me.”
He takes that same businesslike approach to the playing field, where he started the final 37 games of his career. He recorded more than 70 tackles in each of his final three seasons, exhibiting little in the way of celebratory antics. Witness his interception against Virginia in 2016 that sealed a victory for outgoing head coach Frank Beamer in the legendary coach’s final regular-season game. Clark’s celebration consisted of calmly walking over to the sideline and handing Beamer the football – a simple and humble gesture that only added
to the occasion.
“I don’t celebrate much after big plays,” Clark said. “That’s not me. I’ve put in the work to be in position to make plays, and when they come, they come. It’s not surprising. I’ve never been like that [someone who celebrates a lot].”
Clark not only works hard on the practice fields and weight room but also in the classroom. He is one of the rare players who nearly graduated in three years. In fact, he walked across the stage at graduation last May because he had nearly met all the requirements for his degree in human development and minor in sociology.
He took advantage of a heavy course load as a freshman and multiple classes during the summers to put himself in that situation. He only lacked a criminology course for the degree, and he finished the course during the fall semester to wrap up his requirements. He performs well in his classes, too, as his three-time appearance on the All-ACC Academic Football Team attests.
“It was always important to me,” Clark said of academics. “I wouldn’t say I love school, but I always pushed myself to a higher standard. In high school, I held myself to a standard of getting A’s and B’s and pushed myself to that point. It became a habit. You might see a ‘C’ here and there, but I’d always tell myself, ‘OK, I’ve got to get this right.’ I’ve always pushed myself to a higher standard.”
Some of that philosophy comes from his parents. His father, Charles, Sr., retired from the Navy last year after 20
years of service, and his mother, Lashonda, works for the government at Fort Lee near Petersburg, Va. They made sure he stayed out of trouble and made good grades. They even took his cell phone once because of an academic shortfall in high school – the worst of punishments for a teenager in today’s world.
Clark’s mother once made him and his three siblings clean out their closets and place their unused clothes and shoes into boxes. They then drove to an impoverished area in Portsmouth, Virginia and handed those clothes to the homeless.
That experience resonated with Clark. He wants to help people once football runs its course, albeit in a different way.
“I could work with juvenile delinquents, or in family therapy or counseling,” he said. “I feel that it’s always important to focus on our youth. Sometimes they get overlooked, and sometimes they don’t.
“Someone who has been in a position where people have looked up to them before … to have someone like that to be able to work with kids of all ages, it helps them out a lot. So I’d like to help the youth. They are who will be running the country. I just want to give them a helping hand.”
But before diving into that career, Clark will try to land on an NFL roster. He performed well at the NFL Scouting Combine, running the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds and recording a 34-inch vertical jump. His time of 4.07 seconds in the short shuttle was the second-fastest time among defensive backs.
Being drafted in April’s NFL Draft would rank as another great moment for Clark, along with getting his degree, being a three-year starter, winning three bowl games and sending out the coach who recruited him – Beamer – a winner.
Hopefully, there are more good moments to come. Just like the folks whom he saw in the bridge game last spring, he’ll be competing hard to make those moments happen. Only he’ll be doing so as he does everything else – quietly.