AMERICUS, Ga. — For a small South Georgia town of fewer than 20,000 people, Americus has manufactured some big names in the football world, including former NFL head coach Dan Reeves and Chan Gailey. There’s also Leonard Pope, the former UGA tight end who played seven seasons in the NFL.
The latest football celebrity out of Americus is Tyler Clark, a 4-star defensive tackle who committed to UGA in May.
Clark is a little uncomfortable with his new-found fame, but he was very talkative when discussing his dream of one day of also becoming a football coach.
“I really feel like I can go out there and coach because I love the sport so much,” he told the AJC’s DawgNation.com. “I was in ninth grade when I started thinking about this seriously. When I was younger, the older guys would coach me up and I wanted to do the same when I got older.”
Before he became the state’s No. 20 prospect and a leader for his high school team at Americus Sumter, Clark was a “beast,” as his family described him — on the flag football field when he was just 5 years old. His family knew there was something special about him at that time.
“Whenever he played at that age, the rumor in the league was that he really wasn’t 5 or 6 years old,” his mother, Angela Clark, said. “There were a couple of times where we actually had to bring a birth certificate to a game just to let the other team know he was actually that age.”
Tyler hated flag football, though. He never wanted to pull the other kids’ flags off. He wanted to tackle them.
“He used to cry because he actually couldn’t put on the pads and tackle the other kids,” his mother said. “Well, he couldn’t put on pads and wasn’t supposed to tackle, but Tyler did it anyway. The other parents used to complain and he would just cry and say ‘I just want to hit! I don’t want to pull the flag!’ So he would have the flag in one hand and have the other guy on the ground.”
Fast forward 12 years, Clark is now a student of the game. His favorite hobbies? Watching football, reading about football, studying the game of football. Anything related to football — he is a fan of it.
He is, however, not a very big fan of college football recruitment because of all the media attention.
The nation’s No. 24 defensive tackle was a late-bloomer when it comes to recruiting. One of the reasons for that is because he has had four different head coaches in four years. He also plays for a school a little off the beaten path for college recruiters, but he became known instantly after being one of the top performers at last year’s RisingSeniors all-star game.
Tyler picked up his offer from UGA this past February and committed just three months later, for one, the media would no longer have to ask where he’ll attend school.
“My recruitment was over after that,” Tyler said. “I just decided to end it all because Georgia felt like home to me. I felt very comfortable with the players, the coaches and the fans.”
Last month, Clark made headlines when he said his commitment to UGA was “99-percent” solid. He said the remaining 1 percent was left to “explore my options,” but he isn’t planning on de-committing.
Those were not happy times in the Clark household. Tyler received some hate over those comments, but he and his family assure Bulldogs fans that there is nothing to worry about.
“If coach (Mark) Richt or if (UGA defensive line coach Tracy) Rocker somehow got fired, I would consider leaving. I don’t think that’s happening anytime soon, though,” Tyler said.
Said his mother: “Fans just kept saying, ‘I thought he was 100-percent committed to Georgia?’ I just felt like they were saying the wrong things because, as his mom, I know where he wants to go in his heart, and that’s Georgia.”
Tyler’s father also wants Bulldogs fans to know where his son’s loyalty lies.
“I don’t think Georgia fans have anything to worry about,” Tommy Clark said. “I mean, Tyler is a true Bulldog. He has been since he’s been a young boy.”
One school, in particular, has received plenty of attention since Tyler committed to UGA –Auburn. He has visited the school multiple times, but there’s one major difference between the two schools. He only has a relationship with “two or three” players on Auburn. In comparison, Tyler is “cool with everyone” on UGA.
So rest easy, Dawgs fans. Despite some flirting with other SEC schools, he appears to be bound for UGA.