Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

September 18, 2012

Swine flu hasn’t slowed down Bluefield linebacker Clark

BLUEFIELD — As many people may know, a football is called a “pigskin.” That name comes from many years ago when the game was first started and the balls used were literally made from the skins of pigs, with a rubber bladder installed to hold the air. It was all bound together with stitches and laces.

Cortez Clark had much experience with pigskins, playing football from the time he was a youth in his hometown of Lynchburg, Va., but it was a pig-like illness that sidelined Clark for much of his senior year at Lynchburg’s Heritage High School when he contracted the swine flu.

“It was after one of the games we played in Harrisonburg,” Clark said. “Originally I didn’t even think I was sick, I just didn’t want to go to school. So I went to the doctor and they actually told me I had swine flu and I ended up being out for two weeks, out of school.”

Not only did Clark miss two weeks of school, he missed that amount of time on the football field, which meant he was in trouble of losing his position and possible college scholarship offers. During his illness he missed a total of three games and lost about 20 pounds.

“That kind of cost me as far as offers,” Clark said. “It was real hard because they had brought a sophomore up, he was playing JV, and he was good and I had to fight for my position back. They (coaches) didn’t think I was strong enough, or healthy enough to play. Actually they told me to sit out the rest of the season, but I told them no.”

Clark fought his way back into the starting lineup for Senior Night at Heritage, and he said the next game, his final as a high school player, is the one he remembers most about his high school career.

“My last game we played Liberty (Bedford) High School,” Clark recalled. “I had 11 tackles, two forced fumbles and I was just making plays. I knew it was my last game, I had to give it my all, that was a big highlight for me. Actually it got me here, I think.”

Clark had heard of Bluefield College from his God-brother, K.J. Bryant. He liked the fact that it was a Christian institution and he made contact with the school.

“I’ve got a real big belief in God,” Clark said. “I’m not going to say I’m the holiest person. I go to church when I can because I usually work on Sunday’s, that’s just how my work schedule goes. But He (God) got me here and even with all this I’ve been through, He has always had my back and I’m thankful for that.”

A member of last year’s team which played on the club level, Clark talked about the difference between 2011 and 2012.

“It’s a lot more focused,” Clark said. “A lot of the players, everybody is more focused and hands-on. Two-a-days, we suffered last year in two-a-days. This year it wasn’t that bad, but we went through it last year at Pocahontas. It was a lot different this year.

“We didn’t have cell phone service, or anything down there, so it was just kind of tough on us.”

There is one aspect of the college game that Clark said is very different from what he experienced at the high school level. Speed.

“In high school you can get away just doing the little things, but when you’re in college you have to do everything right because you never know, the one mistake you make could cost the whole game,” Clark said. “You’ve got to make sure you know your Xs and Os good and then on top of that you’ve got to stay focused the whole game.”

A linebacker, Clark said he has the support of his family who has been to see him play at Mitchell Stadium.

“My mom, my dad and my sister, they are my everything and I’ve got a girlfriend back home too,” Clark said. “They all support me as much as they can.”

Clark and the BC Rams are on the road this week as they travel to Bethel (Tenn.) for a Mid-South Conference game.

— Contact Bob Redd at bredd@bdtonline.com

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