What better place for a Virginia Tech fan to be than playing football for a former Virginia Tech coach?
That is what will happen for Tyler Clark, a senior at Princeton, who signed a letter of intent on Wednesday to play football at Emory & Henry College.
Call his signing day a dream come true.
“I have just always wanted to have my little thing and then go to college and play football,” Clark said.
Clark will play for first-year head coach Curt Newsome, who spent seven years as an offensive line coach at Virginia Tech before spending last season as an assistant in his second stint at James Madison.
“He was actually a line coach at Virginia Tech,” said Clark, with a smile. “We should get along pretty well because I am a Tech fan.”
Clark played for four season at Princeton, two on the varsity level as a tight end, defensive end and offensive tackle, along with playing special teams for the Tigers. He also spent two years on the junior varsity.
“I have loved it here,” Clark said. “I had Coach (Ted) Spadaro here for two years and Coach (Randy) Peek for another two so it was good...
“Coach Peek is a heck of a coach, we always learned under him and just became dominant football players and men basically.”
Peek, who recently completed his second season at Princeton, expects Clark to contribute somewhere on the gridiron for the Wasps, who finished 5-5 last season, and have won at least five games in each of the last six years.
“I think he will play some defensive tackle or defensive end,” Peek said. “Tyler is a good kid, he does a good job in the classroom and he works hard in the weight room and that is important, especially in college football.
“He has a good work ethic and I think he will do well down there.”
Clark has definitely put in the time and effort to make this opportunity occur. The son of the Mercer County Judge Lisa Clark and Mike Clark of Winston-Salem, N.C., Clark has kept the camp circuit busy, attending numerous football camps, including at Emory & Henry, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Concord, Elon, and the NUC Ultimate 100 in Atlanta.
“Like all the other camps I went too, like to Atlanta and the Ultimate 100, it was just amazing,” said Clark, who also wrestled for Princeton and performs with the PSHS Madrigals and Centre Stage. “There are some athletes that were just amazing and I was just happy to be a part of that.”
He was also invited twice to the Top Prospect Camp in Oklahoma two years, but was unable to attend. Peek encourages his players to take advantage of any opportunity to improve.
“We post all the camps out on the bulletin board and his mom has been real good about taking him wherever he wants to go and get his name out there,” Peek said. “That is important.”
Clark has known about Emory & Henry for a while, having visited there when past head coach Don Montgomery was still at the helm.
“When I first went up there two years ago for their camp, I was just like ‘wow, this place is amazing’,” said Clark, who will major in physical therapy, and hopes to be part of the E&H Concert Choir. “I just fell in love with it and all the coaches were nice to me. All the people there are so kind and the classes are smaller which makes more 1 on 1 time with your teachers so that is why I like it there...
“It is only an hour and 10 minutes away. My mom always wanted to stay by me a little bit so I think it is pretty well. If anything happens I can just go on home.”
There was a time, not all that long ago, under recent Virginia Sports Hall of Fame inductee Lou Wacker, when Emory & Henry was one of the top Division III football schools in the nation.
In fact, the Wasps won the Old Dominion Athletic Conference 11 times from 1985-1998, and made four Division III playoff appearances, advancing to the national semifinals in 1987.
Clark wants to play a role in making that happen again, with the help of Newsome, who has ties to Southwest Virginia, having graduated from Emory & Henry, and having coached at the now-closed Ervinton High School in Dickenson County.
“When I first met him he was a heck of a man, he mentioned some good credentials I had and just being there for me and just talking me through the recruiting process.” Clark said. “I think he is going to change the program and change me as an individual to become a better man than I already am.”
Just because Clark’s decision is made doesn’t mean the work now stops. That just isn’t the way a football player works.
“I have been working out at the Training Edge and I am going to work out with my coaches and my other teammates that are going to play college ball here,” Clark said. “Also they are going to send me a regiment so I am going to use that to be ready.
“Hopefully if I work hard enough I will be able to play immediately.”
Clark is the third Princeton senior to decide on a college football future this month — Christian Marshall (Shepherd) and Devin Allen (Concord) are the others — with Zen Clements and Aaron Taylor among those still working on their decisions.
Peek just wants them to realize that if the opportunity comes, they need to work to make it a success for the player and school.
“It is important that when they sign that they are going to go and play, we have stressed that to these kids,” Peek said. “When they sign a letter of intent then they need to go and pursue football.
“College football is a job, and it is tough. With the academics and everything that goes on with it, it is tough, but I think Tyler will do a good job.”
Perhaps Clark is the good luck charm the Wasps need.
“I have been to three games and they won all three of them,” Clark said. “I want to help them win an ODAC conference championship and hopefully a national title in the D-III area.”
—Contact Brian Woodson at firstname.lastname@example.org