Clark Looking to Shine Brightly in Big City
"I want it all,'' Clark said. On the field, he wants to be the starting weakside linebacker, wants to pick up where Kawika Mitchell left off in his one season with the Giants before striking gold with a fat new contract from the Bills. "I want it more than ever,'' Clark said. "This is by far the best opportunity for me to play, the market, the city, the fans, the organization is second to none. All my ducks are lined in a row for myself to go out and be very successful in this defense.'' Off the field, Clark wants what from afar he watched Michael Strahan get in the big city. Clark knows he's not the Hall of Fame caliber player Strahan was for 15 years for the Giants but Clark is affable, glib and more than casually interested in becoming a personality people want to know better. "I want to do television and radio, definitely,'' Clark said. "I was a theater minor in college, so I want to do some big-screen stuff. There's millions and millions of opportunities in this city for people who want to take advantage of them.'' Sounds like a plan, but many plans go awry if there's no foundation in place. Clark on March 13 signed a two-year contract with the Giants, arriving with what must be considered a fairly ordinary résumé based on his previous eight years in the NFL. Tom Coughlin drafted him for the Jaguars back in 2000 and after two seasons Clark emerged as a starter for a deteriorating Jacksonville franchise. Clark started for two years and amassed 243 tackles for a bad Raiders team, was a backup player in 2006 with the Saints and last year started eight games for the Texans. He has played in 122 regular-season games and not a single playoff game. In only one of his eight seasons has Clark played on a winning team and his career record is 52-76. Winning hasn't exactly followed him around, which is one reason why he was stunned when he came to the Giants. Fresh off their stunning Super Bowl triumph, the Giants afforded Clark a most unfamiliar aroma, a winning scent he had never before experienced. Clark, 31, arrived before the Giants held their gala "blue carpet" ring ceremony in Manhattan but opted not to attend. "I wanted to starve myself of that feeling because I'm hungry to get it as well,'' Clark said. "We got to get another one. I want in. There's like this great club of guys and I love 'em to death. We all have the same desire. I don't know if it's as strong as it was a year ago, but I hope so.'' As a player, Clark has had an unremarkable career but the hope around the Giants is adding him to an established and cohesive defense will pay great dividends. Actually, the plan was to bring Clark in and have him compete with third-year Gerris Wilkinson for the starting weakside linebacker job. Based on the vibes given off by the coaching staff, it was generally accepted that Wilkinson was the first choice, as he's younger, more athletic and has more upside potential. "He was drafted by the franchise, you're hoping guys like that have success,'' linebackers coach Bill Sheridan said. "I don't know if you'd say it that strongly that we want him to have the job, we want the best player to have the job, but you're partial to the guys you draft. You're hoping Gerris is what we expected coming out of college. I can remember him distinctly, I thought he'd be a good NFL player and I think he will be.'' Wilkinson got off to a slow (make that stagnant) start in camp, missing the first two weeks with problems stemming from the dislocated kneecap he suffered last summer. Wilkinson slowly got back on the field and into the fray. Clark in the offseason underwent surgery to repair a sports hernia and he worked just once a day throughout camp, trying to learn defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's system and also the tendencies of his new teammates. "The way [Spagnuolo] has linebackers playing this defense, I couldn't have drawn it up better,'' Clark said. "I don't have a bad thing to say about this opportunity. I want to make plays I'm supposed to make and I want to make some of the plays I'm not supposed to make. Anyone can do what's handed in your lap, but I'm going to make some stuff that people don't expect Mr. Clark to make. This is a slot, it's like a plug and play attitude, it's a situation that's ready-made. "I want to go in and play to Kawika's ability or better. He was a heck of a linebacker in this defense last year, and so the standards are extremely high.'' Clark originally was a seventh-round pick of the Jaguars coming out of Illinois – he's a native of suburban Chicago – and says his attitude is much like that of Antonio Pierce, who wasn't even drafted out of Arizona. "AP reminds me of myself in so many ways, because he has a chip on his shoulder,'' Clark said. "He's knocking 'em down and taking names and that's the same attitude I have. I knew it when I signed, that was going to be the guy I gravitate towards.'' Pierce, like Strahan before him, is attempting to dip into the enormous New York media pool and Clark similarly wants to wade in. "Michael Strahan is a huge mentor of mine and he doesn't even know it,'' Clark said. "He's an icon. I respect him on so many levels, on the field as well as off the field. He's definitely raised the standards and expectations of myself. I think this is the place I would like to finish my career, ultimately, and I want to make a distinguished transition five or 10 years down the line.''