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INDIANAPOLIS — Former Indianapolis Colts tight end Dallas Clark said farewell after 11 NFL seasons during an emotional news conference at the team’s facility Wednesday.
“Dallas is such a great football player who elevated the horseshoe to another level when he came in,” Colts owner Jim Irsay said.
Former teammates Robert Mathis and Reggie Wayne, as well as retired players David Thornton, Ryan Diem, Hunter Smith and Josh Thomas attended the announcement.
Clark had to pause several times to gather his emotions.
“I don’t want it to seem like a funeral,” Clark said. “I want it to be lighthearted, I want it to be happy.”
Clark, 35, thanked former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, now with the Denver Broncos.
“Something about that man showed you how the game was supposed to be played, (the) importance of being accountable,” Clark said.
Manning called Clark “one of my favorite teammates.”
“I am proud of his career and am proud that I was part of it and witnessed all that he accomplished,” Manning told colts.com. “Let’s face it — Dallas was a problem for teams.
After paying tribute to Manning, Clark looked over at Wayne.
“Thank you so much. ... I was hanging onto your coattails,” Clark said, choking up.
Clark was selected by the Colts in the first round (24th overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft out of Iowa.
During a news conference Wednesday in Iowa City, Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz reminisced about Clark, who had 742 yards and four TDs his last season at Iowa.
“Dallas is just a Hall of Fame guy and really personifies everything that’s good about football,” Ferentz said. “His story is a great one, being a walk-on. What an illustrious career he had here and an interesting career.”
In nine seasons (2003-2011) with the Colts, Clark set franchise records for career receptions (427) and receiving touchdowns (46) by a tight end, while finishing second in receiving yards (4,887) and 100-yard games (seven).
Overall, he ranks fourth in franchise history in receptions, sixth in receiving touchdowns and eighth in receiving yards. Clark also holds team tight end seasonal marks in receptions (100 in 2009), receiving yards (1,106 in 2009) and touchdowns (11 in 2007).
In 2009, he became the second NFL tight end to post 100-plus receptions and the first tight end in franchise history to record 1,000-plus receiving yards in a season.
Clark totaled 64 receptions for 847 yards in the postseason, both NFL records by a tight end, while his four touchdowns are tied for sixth. During the Colts’ championship run to Super Bowl XLI, Clark posted the highest receiving-yardage total (317) by an NFL tight end in a postseason since 1970 and his 21 receptions ranked second.
For his NFL career, Clark finished with 505 receptions for 5,665 yards and 53 touchdowns in 143 games played (118 starts). Among tight ends, he ranks tied for sixth in NFL history in receiving touchdowns, tied for eighth in receptions and 15th in receiving yards.
But it’s not the numbers Clark will remember most.
“It always comes back to the guys, the locker room,” he told colts.com. “There were some phenomenal games, but what you cherish is your teammates. It’s the guys who make the whole experience special
“I’m a Colt, and I’m very lucky to say that. There’s not 31 other teams like this. This is special.”