National Football Foundation names Nick Clark a National Scholar-Athlete
Standing on a deserted Wacker Field in Bobcat Stadium, squinting into the December sun as an incoming norther ruffles his jacket, Nick Clark takes a breather from what has been a remarkable semester. It started with his August 2009 magna cum laude graduation from Texas State University-San Marcos in mathematics with a 3.77 grade point average and ended with a December trip to New York City to be recognized by the National Football Foundation as a National Scholar-Athlete.
Clark was one of only 15 students in the nation to be recognized as a National Scholar-Athlete. The designation is awarded to players in honor of their athletic ability, academic excellence and civic leadership. Clark received an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship.
“I wish I had a few more years,” Clark says of his college football career, which ended November 15, 2009, with a one-point loss to Sam Houston State. “But it’s time for the next step.”
For the former Bobcat captain and defensive end, that step is a graduate degree. Clark is enrolled as a full-time graduate student in Texas State’s physics department. And if that wasn’t enough, he’ll continue to be active around San Marcos in the volunteer and mentor roles that he enjoys.
Math Whiz Math and football have been a part of Clark’s life for a long time. The 22-year-old Fort Worth native was a three-year letter winner at Fort Worth’s Everman High School, the district’s most valuable defensive player as a senior, and a member of the school’s back-to-back state championship teams as a junior and senior.
Clark says he has enjoyed math as long as he can remember — both doing math and helping others understand it. Students at San Marcos’ Travis Elementary School have benefited from Clark’s love of math and patient tutoring. In addition to tutoring, Clark volunteers with Habitat for Humanity and Bobcat Build, a campus-wide community service program. He particularly enjoys working with children. “In the summers we go around to the elementary schools and do pep rallies for the TAKS test,” he says.
One More Season
After receiving his bachelor’s degree in mathematics in August 2009, Clark immediately began a full load of graduate school courses. He was eligible for one more football season, and no one would have blamed him if he decided to concentrate on his graduate-level physics classes without the rigors of football.
But he decided to go for it. One reason: His younger brother, Marcus, joined the Bobcat football team as a freshman. “This season was really special for me because of my little brother,” he says. “We never played together in high school — I left the year he started.” Marcus Clark, whom his brother calls “more of an athlete than I am, a better football player,” was a linebacker in the 2009 season.
Nick Clark was more than halfway through his final season when he learned of his selection as a National Scholar-Athlete, the first for Texas State. The program, launched in 1959, was the first time an organization honored football players for athletics, academics and leadership.
The National Football Foundation’s selection committee draws from all levels of college football. Each school may nominate one player, who must be a senior or graduate student in his final year of eligibility, have a grade point average of at least 3.2 and demonstrate both outstanding football ability and civic leadership.
Clark and the other 14 National Scholar-Athletes traveled to New York City in December 2009 for the National Football Foundation’s 60th anniversary awards dinner at the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel. “I didn’t know the award was such a big deal until I got up there,” Clark says. He got to rub elbows with the likes of Joe Paterno and Doug Flutie, who were in attendance because they were being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Two weeks after the New York trip, Clark returned to Bobcat Stadium to receive the Texas State Bobcat Club Academic Ring. The university’s athletic department began the ring ceremony in 1986 to recognize excellence on the playing field and in the classroom. Clark and 18 others received rings. And there was one more honor in store: on December 21, 2009, the Southland Conference named Clark its student-athlete of the year in football.
Clark will finish his master’s degree in 2009 and plans to pursue a career in electrical engineering. He doesn’t rule out going for a doctorate. And a football career? He doesn’t rule that out, either. “I’ll try out, but if I don’t get it I won’t be disappointed,” he says. “I’ll try out because the opportunity is there.”
If his record is any indication, Nick Clark’s opportunities are unlimited.