Seattle Seahawks

Much-debated top pick Frank Clark to Seahawks, fans: ‘I am going to make you proud’

From homeless and wandering some of the toughest streets in Los Angeles. Jailed in Ohio facing a domestic violence charge. Kicked off his college team at Michigan.

Through being drafted improbably in the second round last week as the Seahawks’ top pick. To where he was Friday, rushing off the edge of Seattle’s defense on the first day of the defending two-time NFC champions’ rookie minicamp.

That’s what Frank Clark was thinking about on the first day of his much-debated Seahawks career.

“Just incredible. I’m blessed,” a sometimes-smiling Clark said, squinting into a brilliant sun just off Lake Washington following practice. “I haven’t played football since November, and just being back out here (with) the Seattle Seahawks giving me an opportunity to play the game I love once again, I can’t ask for much more.

“I shouldn’t be here. I come from a rough town in Los Angeles, California, and in Cleveland. Everything that I’ve been through these last several months and throughout my life, it’s amazing how I’m still here.

“I got the organization to thank, the fans — the ‘12s,’ as we call them — and coach Pete Carroll and the staff for just believing in me.”

This, after a week of criticism that the Seahawks did not do a thorough enough investigation into whether Clark struck his girlfriend during an incident at a hotel outside Sandusky, Ohio, in November, as a police report on the incident seemed to depict. The prosecuting attorney there determined Clark did not. The prosecutor agreed to reduce the charge through a plea bargain to disorderly conduct, a fourth-degree misdemeanor.

Clark said the criticism and judgments passed of him since Seattle drafted him matter to him.

“It matters because at the end of the day you don’t want to be labeled as what some call a ‘woman-beater’ or things of that nature,” Clark said.

“(But) at the same time it doesn’t bother me, because I know what I did and what I didn’t do. I don’t want to get in to the specifics of the case but at the end of the day you know the coaches and the staff here had faith in drafting me and they did their job in what they did and they showed that faith in me.”

Just as he had been seven days earlier when the Seahawks selected him, Clark was asked to explain what happened in that Ohio hotel room in November. And just as he had last Friday, Clark said: “Basically, I put myself in a bad position. I shouldn’t have been in the position anyway. It shouldn’t have got to the point where it got and we shouldn’t even be talking about it.

“This whole thing about DV is a major thing. I don’t believe that (any) woman or (anybody) specific should go through it. In my case, I believe I put myself in a bad position.”

The Seahawks, Carroll and Clark used this unveiling day to present prevailing themes on their top draft pick: The team’s — specifically its head coach’s — ability to reach every player, troubled or not, and get the best out of him to benefit the franchise, and the player’s appreciation for overcoming his difficult background.

Clark was born 22 years ago next month to Teneka Clark in the section of south Los Angeles near Crenshaw some call “The Jungle” — Baldwin Village.

Those are the crime-filled and often shuttered streets, places Carroll’s been when he coached and recruited at nearby USC and then started his philanthropic “A Better L.A.” organization, that Clark and his mother roamed when he was 10 and 11.

Homeless, broke and hungry.

“It’s very rocky. It’s amazing,” Clark said. “I sent out a tweet about a week ago saying at the age of 11 I was homeless, and at the age of 21 I’m a second-round draft pick to the Seattle Seahawks. If it doesn’t get (any) more rocky than that, I don’t know what to tell you.

“My whole life in California me and my mother struggled. I had two older brothers that were sent away at young ages, they were in to gangs and things of that nature and I saw my mother see me go down those same paths. My mother not working a job and not being able to provide for us financially led us to being homeless. We didn’t have nothing. Every day, whether it was practice or me just finding a meal, was a struggle. I remember days I was walking looking for a meal, I remember nights walking and we didn’t have anywhere to stay.

“All that inspired me to be the man I am today.”

Where he was Friday was at defensive end, flipping sides of the line as the “LEO” pass rusher in the Seahawks’ base 4-3 defense. It’s what veteran returning starter Cliff Avril plays.

Clark looked somewhat winded, if not out of shape; at one point during the sunny, 74-degree afternoon he went off to the sidelines with a trainer to deal with cramps.

“Not used to this weather,” Clark said, smiling. “It’s much cooler in Michigan.”

Carroll said the team is eager to see how many pass-rush positions he can play — perhaps even the third-down role of moving from the edge of the line to inside, over the guard. Starting end Michael Bennett had wowing success doing that last season.

“If he could, he can play next to Mike — we like to play him inside. That could be a really good combination,” Carroll said. “It's going to take us quite a while to figure that out."

For now, Clark has more pressing matters.

“I’m a great guy. I’m still a kid in some people’s eyes,” he said. “I’m 21 years old. I’m not a complete person.

“I’m a person who is still learning, I’m a player who is still learning. I’m a player who still needs coaching. I’m a person who still needs to get talked to by my elders and still taught the way of life because I don’t know it all.

“I’ve got a lot of people here and a lot of people on my team who can do that.”

Given the opportunity, Clark said there wasn’t anything he wants to correct in what’s been reported about him.

“They’re going to write what they want to write,” he said. “At the end of the day, I know what happened. (There are) only two people that really know what happened. The case played out how it played out and hopefully it showed what happened and the truth of that.

“I’ve been honest and upfront the whole time as much as I can. Everything I said to the coaches, to everyone who’s questioning me about it, I’ve been honest and upfront from the very beginning. And that’s all I can do.”

That, and rush the passer with the speed and havoc-making he did at Michigan. Until November, that is.

He’s only been a Seahawk for one week — one tumultuous and unique week — and been on their practice field for just one day. But Clark already had a message for Seattle’s fans.

“One thing I’m going to do is make them proud,” Clark said. “I believe for the most part they’ve stood behind me during this whole time. They’ve been very supportive and they look (at) me seeing a lot of high hopes.

“I’m going to make them proud.”

Extra points

The team signed six draft picks: G Mark Glowinski, DE Obum Gwacham, S Ryan Murphy, OT Terry Poole, CB Tye Smith and C/G Kristjan Sokoli. That leaves only Clark and WR/KR Tyler Lockett, the top two picks, unsigned. ... Four former Washington Huskies are in this minicamp trying out as nonroster players: WR Kasen Williams, RB Jesse Callier, C/G Mike Criste and TE Michael Hartvigson. A fifth former UW player, WR Kevin Smith, is on the 90-man offseason roster and practicing this weekend, too. … Williams had a good catch in traffic on a long out route Friday.

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