Clark comes back with a vengeance


NIU senior linebacker Tyrone Clark responds to media questions during an NIU defensive player news conference in late December.

By Brian Earle

After sitting out the 2011 season due to personal issues, senior linebacker Tyrone Clark was back on the field for NIU football, playing as well as he did when he was a sophomore.

In his return to the field, Clark recorded 82 total tackles, 48 solo tackles and 10 tackles for a loss which were all career-highs. He also recorded a career-high 17 tackles in a game this season against Army and three tackles for a loss against Akron.

“Tyrone’s had a great year,” said defensive coordinator Jay Niemann. “We were very thankful to get him back this year. He’s been very productive… [He’s a] physical player, good tackler [and] plays well in space.”

Clark’s return has helped the defense as a whole improve this season. The Huskies’ defense was second in the MAC in scoring defense, allowing 19 points per game. The Huskies’ defense also surrendered 356.7 yards of total offense per game.

“He’s a guy that’s respected because of how he carries himself and how he plays,” Niemann said. “He has been a huge asset for us and has a lot to do with our defensive improvement over the course of these last two years.”

They key to the defense’s improvement this season has been their ability to stay disciplined on the field on a week-in, week-out basis.

“We work for consistency,” Clark said. “A lot of our guys on defense, we just love what we do and if you love what you do, you’re going to improve, so that’s our main focus.”

Despite how productive Clark has proven to be on the field, Clark has proved himself even more important to the defense as a leader.

“It’s meant a great deal for us to get him back,” Niemann said. “We had a year where we weren’t able to play him, and to get him back in the system, not only from his production as a player, tackles and big plays he makes in games and all those things, but from a leadership standpoint it’s been tremendous to have him back on the field.”

Clark views himself as a leader as well and wants set a precedent for his team.

“First and foremost, I just try to do my job,” Clark said. “[I] lead by example and just let my passion speak to the other players and let them see that.”

Clark’s leadership and work ethic do not go unnoticed by his teammates.

“Obviously he’s a good player on the field, but leadership on and off the field [are huge],” said defensive end Sean Progar. “He’s that guy that’s going to come in and work harder than anybody else, and he’s going to make everyone else work, and if you’re not going to he’s going to let you know about it… And obviously you need that on the team.”

With this being Clark’s senior year, he couldn’t be more excited about the chance to end his career as a Huskie, playing in the Orange Bowl.

“First and foremost it’s a blessing, just to come back for my senior year,” Clark said. “[It’s great] to be where we are at now, and then to have the opportunity to play in the Orange Bowl.”