Walk-on Gets Special Attention

BYU fans all know how Coach Mendenhall loves a good walk-on. Guys like Nathan Meikle, Ben Criddle, and Chris Warner endear themselves to fans as well because of the sacrifices they each make so that they can contribute to the team they love. Cougar fans need to find room in their heart for one more walk-on with an amazing story behind his appearance on the BYU roster.

Last season a botched deep snap on an overtime extra point attempt was the margin of victory when BYU played TCU. Coach Mendenhall was determined not to allow something so simple cost his team another game, so he signed a JC deep snapper who could take care of business on special teams.

When fall camp started, the JC deep snapper was nowhere to be seen. He was unable to qualify academically, so the Cougars were without a deep snapper once more.

Coaches were so desperate to fill their need for a long snapper that they held open tryouts for the position. They were even willing to part with one if their coveted scholarships to whoever could fill the spot.

Jayson Clark was the only one of the candidates who had the skills needed to make the team. It was not Clark's first experience with BYU football, however.

"I started my career at Ricks," said Clark. "They did away with the program and I went on my mission to Peru. I came back and decided I wanted to go to Snow College, me and some of my buddies, Nate Meikle was one of those guys, and we played there. I was a starting linebacker there but a back up long snapper, and then after two seasons there I transferred here [BYU] as a walk-on as a linebacker and a back up long snapper behind John Denney. During that time I got married to Julian and thought it was about time for me to move on. I was in the situation where I was a bubble guy for a scholarship and just chose to get married and to get a job."

Clark decided to leave the team in an effort to help support his himself and his new wife who was a dancer at BYU. During his junior year, Clark sat out from school until he got a call last Wednesday.

"Last Wednesday nothing like this was even in the back of my mind," said Clark. "Then last Thursday my phone rang and it was my brother who has a night time job and had heard the details before anyone else. He called me early in the morning and said, ‘Hey what are you doing today?' I said, ‘Well, I'm going to go interview for a couple of jobs and try and find one.' He then said, ‘Well, did you read the paper today? I told him that I hadn't and he said to listen to this. He read an article that said, ‘Attention All Deep Snappers.' He then read how the long snapper they were recruiting didn't qualify for BYU. He told me that I better call Coach Tidwell and I just thought, ‘Yeah right.' He then calls back ten minutes later and said, ‘So, did you call Tidwell yet?' I said, ‘No, I haven't,' and he said, ‘Well you better call him.' He then called me back again about a half hour later and said, ‘Jayson, Coach Tidwell's number is…now call him!' That's when I started to think about it."

Clark then went down to BYU to check out how the long snappers on the team were doing.

"I came down and watched, and I thought, ‘You know, I have a shot at this,'" said Clark. "After practice I saw Nate Meikle and we drove around campus and talked about it. He said to me, ‘You know Clark, you gotta call Coach Tidwell and just tell him that you're still around.' The more I thought about it the more I realized something would be eating at me if I was watching from the stands knowing that I was probably better than what was down there, and knowing that I still had a year left to do it."

After all the persuasion, Clark finally took the advice of his older brother and his good friend and called Coach Tidwell.

"I called up Coach Tidwell and I told him, ‘Hey, I heard about the snapping situation, and I just wanted to let you know that you have a snapper a mile's distance from the school, and I would like to talk to you about it so give me a call.' He called me up and the first thing he said was, ‘Have you been practicing?' I said, ‘Hey coach you know me I'm always ready for this kind of stuff.' Anyways I told him my situation and he said, ‘Come on out and we'll take a look at you.' They took a look at me last Friday and then I came out last Monday night. They wanted to see me snap with shoulder pads and a helmet on."

Clark performed well for the coaches, who gave him a general idea of what they were looking for in a deep snapper. Clark did not disappoint.

"I gave a good showing and the next morning it was all set in stone," Clark said. "What they were looking for was a consistent snapping time between .75 to .78th of a second from the time the ball is snapped to the time the kicker catches it. In the morning showing I was probably around a time of .78 to a .82. That afternoon I had a snap that was as fast as .74, and as I kept doing it I just felt more comfortable and got better at it."

BYU coaches wanted to see Clark a third time and called him back in for another showing.

"They called me back in a third time and wanted me to snap the ball with a helmet and shoulder pads on," said Clark. "My time then slowed down about a tenth of a second but I was still consistent at it. I was consistent enough to where they called me in and I went through all the procedures and here I am wearing a BYU uniform. As of last Wednesday [August 9th] I wasn't thinking about this and then all of a sudden everywhere I look on my body I have the BYU logo."

Now as a member of the BYU football team, Clark will play role not glamorized by the media, but one that contributes to wins and losses, as proved in last season's TCU game. Clark is still trying to figure out what exactly has just happened.

"It feels good," said Clark. "I don't really know how to describe it. It's kind of like, ‘What just happened today?' So it's exciting and yet at the same time I'm walking around and it's almost like I'm in a fantasy world. I walk in the locker room, and I see some of my old buddies, and they're excited to see me and I'm excited to see them. It's been a rollercoaster ride for me, but it's been a fun one so far."

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