Up Close with Frank Clark (Part 1)

In part one of Frank Clark's roundtable session with the media at Big Ten Media Day the senior defensive end discusses the growth of the defense, his growth as a leader, and more.

Question:  What do you think it’s going to take for Michigan’s defense to take that next step?

Frank Clark:  “I think in order for our defense to take the next step, the first step was establishing great depth.  For the past couple of years, we really didn’t have good depth on the defensive side of the ball.  You’ll have one or two players that the coach would identify guys that needed to be on the field.  Those are the types of players that we have.  We really didn’t have anybody behind them that could come into the game in the midst of a serious moment or in the midst of a moment you needed your starters in, to fill in as that second starter as we call it.  This year I believe that’s what we have.  We have that two deep that you can actually call one deep and at any other school they would be starters.  That’s kind of what we established through the winter and through the spring.”

Question:  What has Jake Ryan been like moving over to middle linebacker?

Frank Clark:  “Jake moving over to middle linebacker has been like…as far as leadership that he brings to that position, is impeccable.  Because he’s already a great defensive player, and really athletic, so you can move him around on the defense.  You guys have seen him with his hand in the dirt.  You guys have seen him standing up in our certain blitz packages, but this move to the middle just opens the field for Jake.  It allows him to run more, allows him to see the play more and puts your playmaker right in the middle where you need him.”

Question:  What kind of guy is he off the field?

Frank Clark:  “Jake is a great guy to be around off the field.  We actually hung out recently, went out to the baseball game last night.  Jake and Devin, we just kicked it as we call it.  We just hung out and had fun.  That’s how Jake always is.  A real laid back type of guy, keeps a smile on his face and make sure that his hair is in perfect condition (laughter).”

Question:  You as well keep your hair in perfect condition?

Frank Clark:  “Yeah I make sure that mine is in perfect condition.  I’ve got these things what they call nowadays wave.  At any given moment I’ve got to make sure every wave in my hair is kind of spinning is what we call it.”

Question:  What kind of leader are you and what kind of leader is he?  Is there something that you need to do leadership wise that was lacking here before?

Frank Clark:  “Of course.  Jake is the type of leader that is going to lead in every way by example.  He’s not a big talker after or before meetings.  Jake is the type of person that everyone respects for his work ethic and everyone respects for the type of player that he is.”

Question:  What type of leader are you?

Frank Clark:  “I’m the type of leader that you can respect based on work ethic and I have a big voice.  I’m going to talk to players.  I’m going to let players know when their doing wrong.  I’m going to bring players up when their wrong.  I’m not going to bash them and I’m going to correct players when they’re doing right.  Because you’re never always 100% at the end of the day.  I’m also a great listener and I think every great leader is a great listener.  I listen, I ask freshman if they have anything to say instead of leaving them out.  I ask the coaches after they done meeting or if it is a player’s meeting, I’ll say do you have anything to say.  I want everyone’s input so I know what I can do on my end of the  bargain to make our group, the defense, the best defense that it can possibly be.”

Question:  In what ways have you grown in the last four years?

Frank Clark:  “It seems like the last four years have gone by so fast.  I feel like I was just getting here my freshman year, going to the Sugar Bowl and making my first big play of my career.  I owe everything to my teammates, growing over these last four years.  Without them I wouldn’t have grown.  Just being around the guys, from my early struggles as a freshman, just hearing them talk to me and telling me, Frank we need you.  We can help you, we can seriously use you on the field.  Being told like that and actually have that person be there for me, that was a first for me in my life.  Coming from where I come from, there are not too many people like that.  There are not too many good people like that, people who are genuinely going to be there for you.  Those were the guys on my team that were there for me.  Growth, I just got to show it.  I’m not done growing.  I’m still growing.  I’m going to be growing until I 40 or 50 and my muscles start to deflate a little bit, my arms and my legs.  I’ll get back down to 205 and then maybe I’ll stop growing then.”

Question:  When you were a freshman or a young player, who as an upper classman really kind of took you under their wing, taught you a lot that you can really learned from?

Frank Clark:  “There were two players in particular that took me under their wing.  One in particular was Brandin Hawthorne.  He is a former linebacker at U of M.  The one thing that Brandin did was ‘put me on game’.  He basically told me the ins and outs of making it through Michigan the right way.  The way that I was going in at the beginning was the wrong way.  There was times when I was tired and I don’t know if I’m going to go to that workout or I’m tired I think I’m going to be late.  He basically showed me the way to the point where if you do things right, you do it right all the time.  If you are going to do things wrong, we don’t need you here and that’s simply how it went.  He said everyone is talented, everyone’s good, but everyone doesn’t do everything all the time the right way.  He basically did that.  The other one was Jordan Kovacs.  He was a guy that if you saw him play, he was a leader on the field.  He was a great player.  His story speaks for itself, as a walk on when he comes on and starts for one of the greatest universities in the world.  Jordan’s story and everything he has been through, I have so much respect for him for that and that allowed me to listen to everything he had to say.  I’m still listening to him until this day.”

Question:  What young guys on the team now are you specifically doing that for?

Frank Clark:  “One in particular, Taco Charlton.  I talk to Taco a lot.  I let him know and I school him on knowledge and basically help him understand that you only  have a short span to try your best and do so much in college.  You have a maximum of four to five years to do so much to get to where you want to be, if playing in the NFL is where you want to be.  You only have so less of a span, you have to take every opportunity to get to do this and you got to go full along with it.  That’s basically what I try to let him understand and not to take anything for granted.  Once football is gone, as lot of people say, it’s gone.  That’s just coming from guys who are removed from one year.  I’ve played with guys like William Campbell and the first thing he said, man I mess being in the Big House.  Man I miss training with you all.  I talk to David Molk, I talk to Mike Martin, they say, man I miss playing with you all.  I just think about it now, I’m going to be saying that in a year.  Basically I let them know never take advantage of everything you’ve got.”

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