I hear it from everybody, the senior co-captain said Wednesday afternoon, two days before the Nittany Lions' matchup with LSU. I hear it from the media. I hear it from people back home, I get phone calls about it, I hear it on ESPN, so it's kind of hard to get away from it. I even hear it from people on Twitter and things like that.
The problem, in Clark's view, isn't that he's being diminished by such talk; it's that his teammates are being diminished.
I just can't stress enough how unfair it is to the rest of the team, he said. Everyone else is listening to this, and it's like, 'So, who are we playing for now? Are we playing to win, or are we playing to cement Daryll's legacy at Penn State?' That's not what this is about. This whole thing has been portrayed [that way] by the media, and so now what do we do? We go out and play the game and throw the rest of that mess out of the picture.
Questions about Clark's legacy have been a big part of the run-up to the bowl. That sort of treatment -- the preoccupation with a player's place in school history -- comes with the position, especially when the player in question is a departing senior. Quarterbacks, as coaches are always quick to note, usually get too much credit and too much blame.
But if Clark's legacy is being debated with more than the usual vigor, it may be because with one game left in his college career, there's no apparent consensus on how he ought to be judged. On one hand, Penn State lost its two biggest games of his senior season, games against Iowa and Ohio State in which he combined to go 24 of 60 for 323 yards, with one touchdown and four interceptions. On the other hand, Penn State is 21-4 in his two seasons as a starter and ranks second in the Big Ten in both yards and points per game this year despite having lost all three starting wideouts from 2008.
Whenever Penn State plays in the South, the tendency in the media room is to reach for a Southeastern Conference comparison. On Wednesday, Penn State offensive coordinator Galen Hall was asked how Clark stacked up to Florida's Tim Tebow and LSU's Jordan Jefferson. Hall was reluctant to use that measuring stick, preferring instead to note that the two-year starter has been a much-lauded player in his own conference. We're very happy with Daryll, Hall said. I think he's played very well. He's been voted the Big Ten Player of the Year, and I think it's very deserved.
When he arrived in Florida to start preparing for the bowl, Clark quickly discovered that his supposed search for validation was going to be one of the game's main narratives. One day, while Clark was having lunch, receiver Derek Moye recounted several interviews in which he was asked about his quarterback. They've been [saying] this game is what your legacy is all about, Moye told him. It comes down to this.
Clark was stunned. He talked to some other players and discovered they'd had similar exchanges. As game preparations continued, the questions became more frequent. This is getting out of hand, Clark said to himself.
On Dec. 19, he tweeted the following: Ok so apparently according to fans my legacy is on the line..wow theres no fakin about this.IM PISSED..we'll see on new years
Clark said that before tweeting, he'd heard it about 15 times that day. And we'd only been here for about two days. He later talked to his offensive teammates about the game and assured them he wasn't thinking about the game on personal terms.
As far as Clark is concerned, he and his teammates have a lot to show for their work the past two years. We've won a lot of tough games, a lot of big games, he said. Maybe not all of them, but we've won a lot of them.
I feel like obviously winning every single game is one of the big goals, but that's a tough task and we weren't able to do it. To win most of them, and to play the way I have and the team has throughout these two seasons is a pretty good accomplishment.