"I want the hype," Clarke said. "I'd love to try to live up to the expectations. It's probably going to push me to be the best I can be… It gives me a little bit of something to work at. You can't wear that number if you aren't the best."
Initially, Clarke had tried for his high school number (No. 74) or the reverse (No. 47), but both weren't available.
"Since they were taken, I tried for 45 but 45 was taken," Clarke said. "So I asked them what was open and they said '49.' I asked, ‘Why's 49 open?' They said, ‘Because that's Julius Peppers' number.' So I said, ‘I want that.'"
Despite the digits on his jersey, Clarke understands he'll have to earn his playing time. However, there's been no discussion about red-shirting.
"Right now, I'm heading in with the mindset of being in shape [and] being able to do the things that I need to do to benefit the team," Clarke said. "So it's all based off of me. If I come in there handling myself – including my school work because that's most important – I'll be able to contribute early."
For much of Clarke's recruitment, Walt Bell served as his primary contact with UNC. When Bell left shortly after the Tar Heels' Belk Bowl victory, Clarke began to communicate with defensive line coach Keith Gilmore significantly more.
"It's been fun getting to know Coach Gilmore," Clarke said. "I think I'll be able to learn a lot from him."
While attending UNC's Spring Game, Clarke received a glimpse of Gilmore in action.
"I was watching my position – in particular the three-technique," Clarke said. "I was just watching some of the things that I might have to do."
Clarke had planned on playing basketball this past winter, but obligations associated with the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl forced him to miss too much of the season. He did, though, join T.C. Williams' track-and-field team where he qualified for the regional track meet in the shot put. His personal best put is 48-foot-8.
In addition to the shot put, Clarke participated in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. This season, his fastest time in the 100 was 12.78 seconds.
T.C. Williams' track workout is modeled after a workout developed by Jeff Connors, ECU's current and UNC's former strength and conditioning coach. Clarke primarily follows that workout, but sprinkles in elements of the regimen the Tar Heels current strength and conditioning staff have sent him.
"I've definitely gotten bigger, faster, and stronger since the [football] season," Clarke said. "I went from like 270-something to 285 [pounds]. I just want to stay under 300 [pounds] before I leave [T.C. Williams]. It's not like bad weight because I'm running with it. It's not like fat – it's more like lean weight."
Clarke, a qualifier according to the NCAA Clearinghouse, will move into his dorm on June 16 and then enroll in the second summer semester. He plans to major in Applied Sciences.
"I've been taking engineering in high school since the ninth grade," Clarke said. "I've been in a lot of programs throughout high schools to get me ready to be an engineer."
Fellow northern Virginia produce, M.J. Stewart, who enrolled in January, has provided Clarke with details on what to expect.
"He said they move fast so you have to adjust to the speed of everything," Clarke said. "He came down mid-year. I don't think summer school is going to be that fast, but I know I'll have to adjust. He said that the notes come fast in class."