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Chargers Roster Breakdowns, 90-in-90: OG Donavon Clark

Day 21 of 90-in-90. Can Donavon Clark crack the 53 man roster?

NCAA Football: Penn State at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Player Factfile:

Name: Donavon Clark

Age: 24

Position: OG

College: Michigan State

NFL games played: 0

Games played for the Chargers: 0

Fun fact: Donavon Clark is from Finneytown, a town with a population of 12,741 in Ohio. When the Chargers drafted him in 2016, Clark made history and became the first person to ever be drafted into the NFL from Finneytown.

"I'm going there with the confidence of a first rounder and the edge of an undrafted free agent."

Ten minutes. That's how long Clark's first radio interview was (at least, I think it's the first) after he became a Charger. Those ten minutes are all you need to understand how Clark's mind works. Clark might have been a 7th round pick, but he's not just here to make up the numbers for a couple of years, collect the paycheck and move on. He's here to compete. He's here to win.

Before he went down with an ACL injury in preseason of his rookie year last season, he looked like he was going to have won himself a place on the 53 man roster. He's now back at square one (with lots of competition), but if there's anyone with the mentality to bounce back from such a big setback, it's Donavon Clark. This is a man who backs himself all the way - and with good reason.

Clark first proved that he was a special breed of athlete all the way back in High School at Finneytown High School in Ohio. It would take far, far too long to list all the accomplishments Clark earned on the football field, so I'll stick to the 'big' ones. He was ranked the #13 OG in the country by, and was a first team all-city, all-conference, all-district and all-Ohio as a senior - all of which earned him an invite to play in both the 2011 U.S. Army All-American Bowl and to represent the Ohio All-Stars in the Big 33 Classic, an All-Star game featuring the top High School players from Pennsylvania against places like Ohio. Some of the notable alumni from that game include Joe Montana, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Ty Law, Orlando Pace, Curtis Martin, LaVar Arrington, Bob Sanders and Ben Roethlisberger. That's pretty good company.

If that's all Clark had done in High School, it would be impressive enough - after all, it was enough to earn him a scholarship from the Michigan State Spartans, who finished the #3, #5 and #2 team in the country in the three years Clark saw significant action. However, the football field wasn't the only place where Clark excelled. He was a superb Track and Field athlete - and I mean superb. Clark was the Division II district champion in the discus as a sophomore, was the 2010 Cincinnati Hills League Track co-Athlete of Year after finishing first in both the shot put and discus, and placed in the top 10 in both the shot put and discus at the 2011 state track and field championships, coming fifth in the shot put and ninth in the discus. This man is a special breed of athlete.

There are generally two stereotypes about athletes of Clark's calibre. Firstly, they're 'dumb jocks' who have brawn over brains. That’s definitely not true about Clark. His intelligence was routinely praised at Michigan State (both in football and off the field), and when asked in that aforementioned radio interview what he planned to do with the Sociology degree he earned in December 2015, Clark responded with this:

"I'm going to have some connections... obviously football doesn't last for ever, the main goal was getting my degree regardless of football. I'm going to have that to fall back on later in my life."

Bear in mind, this interview was three days after he'd just completed a lifelong dream of making it to the NFL and signed a $2.4m deal. Even at that point, he's still willing to acknowledge that football won't be there forever and he'll be using his degree at some point. That's a mindset of someone wise well beyond their years. Scratch that. That's the mindset of a champion.

The second stereotype is that these athletes never have to want for anything in their life, or never have to go through any hardship. Unfortunately, that's not the case for Donavon Clark.

According to this phenomenal piece of reporting in the Detroit Free Press, Clark's father (Phil) met his mother (Jacque) at Church, and they were engaged just a month after their first date - after Phil proposed on the phone. It's not the most traditional way of doing things, but considering they've recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary, I'd say things have worked out pretty well for the couple.

"For better or for worse. In sickness and in health."

Phil and Jacque Clark would have said that as part of their wedding vows. Everyone says it. Some people mean it. Very few people experience it like Phil and Jacque. Eight years into their marriage, and when Donavon was just 7, Jacque was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. It's a horrible disease, a neurological condition which affects (amongst other things) eyesight (at it's most serious, you can lose your sight completely), balance, and short term memory. There is no cure.

"For better or for worse. In sickness and in health."

Well, Phil meant those words. He meant every damn syllable. Donavon never said those vows, but he didn't need to. They were in this together.

Jacque had to stop working in 2003. Phil worked as hard as he could to support his family, while Donavon used his scholarship to alleviate any financial strain. Soon after, she had to stop driving. Then she couldn't walk. Or get to the bathroom on her own. Or feel anything in her fingertips.

Every day, while Donavon was away at college, Phil would dress and bathe Jackie. He'd help her to the bathroom and cook for her. Phil is a full time carer as well as a full time worker, with a job in the IT department at the University of Cincinnati. He also found a way to make it to every single one of Donavon's games - with Jacque.

When Donovan came home from college, Jacque might have gone to touch his face. She wouldn't have been able to feel that it's him, but that's irrelevant. She'll know. They'll both know. The lack of physical feelings only serve to make the emotional ones stronger. Alone, the illness would have controlled Jacque. Together, they control it. Donavon and Phil might have to work twice as hard, but there won't be a moment that crosses their mind where they consider doing anything but. They're family, and family are forever - no matter how tough the circumstances.

"For better or for worse. In sickness and in health."