April 19, 2002

by Blake Kirkman

Notre Dame, Ind. – As the sun shown down on the late afternoon of what has turned into a pleasant string of beautiful days on the Notre Dame campus, there was something noticeably different on the afternoon practice field of head coach Tyrone Willingham’s team on Thursday. Junior Jared Clark, while still wearing his familiar jersey No. 1, was no longer in red.

“I’m comfortable in this thing,” explained Clark of his new blue jersey. “I didn’t like the red so much.”

The switch in colors also, and more importantly, represents a switch in positions for the Sarasota, Fla., native, as Clark participated for the first time with the tight ends in Thursday’s practice. As a backup quarterback the past two years, Clark saw his first game action in the fourth quarter of Notre Dame’s loss to Texas A&M in 2001 when he carried the ball once for five yards and had his only pass attempt fall incomplete. In a battle for playing time with fellow juniors Carlyle Holiday and Matt LoVecchio again this spring, Clark explained he began to feel that his talents could better serve the team elsewhere.

“I had been thinking about it a lot. I had been talking to my dad for a while about switching positions, and when I spoke to Coach [John] DeFilippo, I was advised to set up a meeting with Coach [Bill] Diedrick,” said Clark.

“I want to do whatever I can to help the team. I asked Coach Diedrick if the coaching staff had any interest in me at another position, and he said they would like see me at tight end. So this is an experiment to see what I can do at the position.”

Head coach Tyrone Willingham complimented Clark’s athleticism after his first day of working out with the tight ends, and commented on the overall benefit the move will have on the team.

“We have a great situation where we have a young man who thinks very much of his team, and he is willing to see where he can best help the team,” explained Willingham.

“Jared jumped in there and did some very good things today. He is very athletic – with good speed and hand eye coordination,” said Willingham. “His ability to think and understand the tight end position has been enhanced by playing quarterback, so it was a good start for him today. Is there still a lot for him to learn? Without question, but he’ll do it. He’ll do a great job with it. I think it is a good move and we’ll work forward with it.”

Clark, a quarterback and defensive end in high school, has never experienced playing tight end, and admits that there is a lot for him to learn and improve upon, but is looking forward to the experience.

“I’ll have to put on more weight and get into better shape, and learn how to block,” said Clark. “I think I’ll have a lot more fun at tight end, being able to run around and hit people, catch some balls and just have fun playing football again. Last year I thought about things a bit too much, where now I can just relax and enjoy playing the game.”

With the addition of an excited and happy Clark to the tight ends picture this spring, the only true question remaining is whether or not he will keep the familiar No. 1 on the back of his jersey.

“Definitely,” said Clark, “If they let me.”