IOWA CITY — Kirk Ferentz wondered aloud Tuesday during his weekly media availability if he could "get a couple snaps out of" former Iowa and Indianapolis Colts tight end Dallas Clark on Saturday against No. 10 Wisconsin.
While that ship might have sailed — "I think that might go detected," Ferentz said — Clark will be in Kinnick Stadium as the honorary captain and to be inducted into Iowa’s ANF Wall of Honor.
Ferentz’s joke got a laugh, but Clark would if he could. He’s around a lot as it is, and still works out with the team when he can.
“This is home. If you want me to pick up groceries or something — just give me any reason to come to Iowa City and I’ll come back,” Clark said. “I love working out with (the players). I love trying to beat them, and (strength and conditioning) coach (Chris) Doyle is fantastic letting me. He always prefaces it with, ‘Are you sure?’ and then ‘Why?’ And it’s because I’m sick in the head, I guess. I want to see if I can keep up with these 19-year-olds.”
Clark’s presence around the Iowa football facility isn’t only welcome, it’s encouraged.
Clark moved back to Iowa to run the Dallas Clark Foundation that benefits Humboldt and Kossuth Counties, as well as to oversee the running of a 135-acre family farm outside his hometown of Livermore. So like he said, whenever he can, he comes back to Iowa City.
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While helping with the Back Porch Revival concert in August, Clark spent his free time at Hawkeyes’ camp, working out with the current players and going through the same rigors Doyle put him through from 1999 to 2002.
Ferentz has, essentially, an open-door policy with his former players and when they’re around, he wants them to embed the history and meaning of the program into the current guys.
“He’s been around our players, they know him, and he’s talked to them at camp. When guys come through, not just Dallas but former players come through, we invite them to talk to our players any time,” Ferentz said. “The more our players can learn about the tradition, the fabric; the people that have played here and come through these halls, it’s so valuable. It means a lot to everybody.”
Clark’s work ethic post-NFL is just a continuation of what he was as a Twin Rivers High School athlete, as well as a Hawkeye. He got his start at Iowa as a walk-on linebacker just hoping to play special teams, mowing the Kinnick Stadium grass during his gray shirt year in 1998. He ended his career with a year of eligibility left, leaving to become a Super Bowl champion and All-Pro with the Indianapolis Colts.
He joked he doesn’t think he’s worn out his welcome at the Iowa football facilities yet, but it’s probably not possible for that to happen given what he tries to do when he’s around.
Clark’s journey to such a successful career included Hayden Fry and that Iowa staff being the only Division I school to give him a look, then Bret Bielema vouching for him during the staff change and then Ferentz fostering the move from his original linebacker spot to tight end. All along the way, he had people to lean on, and wants to be that for whoever needs or wants him to be.
“I love being around. If I’m passing them in the hall, I always try to leave myself open; I always say hi. I ask them how school is going or what’s next and try to be engaging so then you open the window of, if they do need help,” Clark said. “You just want to be a resource for them, because I had so many people that helped me get to this. You can’t do it by yourself. If I can pass along any little piece of advice to help them to be successful and figure things out (I will).”
Clark will serve as the honorary captain Saturday, when he also becomes the fifth former player inducted into the ANF Wall of Honor — joining Casey Wiegmann (2012), Jared DeVries (2013), Bruce Nelson (2014), and Robert Gallery (2015).
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His work as a “hobby farmer” on the farm that’s been in his family for more than 100 years is part of a post-NFL life that might include coaching down the road — but nothing past the high school level. If being around the Iowa football facilities has taught him anything, he said, it’s that he doesn’t want that level of stress in his life.
Whether it’s lifting weights with current players or milling around the facility to lend his thoughts, Clark has been around and likely will be around plenty going forward.
While expressing his gratitude for everything, Clark also reminded everyone it’s not always this way with former players and college football programs across the country. He said he’s taking advantage of the fact that his college coach is still around while he can, because he genuinely loves being back.
Fourteen years after leaving for the NFL Draft, Iowa City and the Iowa football building are the same places they’ve always been to him — even if it’s a little fancier inside the Hansen Performance Center than it was in the Jacobson Athletic Building when Clark was in school.
“There’s not many places, 18 years down the road, where your coach is still the coach. It still feels like home,” Clark said. “It’s the familiar faces, it’s the people who helped me become the player I was. If there’s a new coach in there, a lot of coaches have different agendas on how they approach past players. It’s still very easy for me to come in here, work out with the guys, be available; be accessible.
“That’s the beauty of this university and the coaching staff here. It’s still my coach.”