Clark Wilson is ‘a football player’

Herald-Dispatch photo

Clark Wilson is ‘a football player’

A consummate team player, Clark Wilson had to wait his turn as a sophomore at Huntington High School in West Virginia. The Highlanders had a skilled senior quarterback, Mark Shaver, who walked on at Marshall University after graduating.

Rather than standing on the sidelines and holding a clipboard in 2012, Wilson started playing safety on the defensive side of the football and wound up earning First-Team Class AAA All-State honors. “My brain is at quarterback because I’ve been playing it my whole life, through youth league and everything,” Wilson said. “When I was a sophomore, we were missing a safety and they knew I was pretty fast so they put me back there. I had an exceptional season so I was back there again this season.”

Not only did the 6-foot-0, 180-pounder line up at safety as a junior again this season, he was a repeat All-State selection. “Having played quarterback so long, it’s a lot easier to also play safety because you know exactly what they’re looking for, exactly what they want to hit in certain situations,” Wilson said. “I know how to read the quarterback and I think that gives me an advantage playing safety.”

With Shaver off at Marshall, Wilson also started at quarterback for Huntington this year and he led the Highlanders to a 13-0 record and No. 1 ranking among West Virginia’s largest high schools heading into the Dec. 7 state championship game. Huntington lost a 9-7 nail-biter to Martinsburg in the title game, but the season was an unqualified success.

“I’m really proud of our season,” Wilson said. “We were predicted to lose in the playoffs, and earlier in the season we were looked at as a team that was going to barely make the playoffs. We shocked everybody and we were No. 1 in the state for seven weeks of the season, not counting the playoffs. We did what we were coached to do. Our coaches are really good and we were very sound fundamentally this year. When teams would stop one of our strong points, we would just go to another one and master it.”

With Wilson under center, Huntington ran the double wing, triple option, veer and some spread on offense. “We were predominantly a running team,” said Wilson, who passed for 587 yards and 8 touchdowns and ran for 276 yards and 4 more scores.

The Highlanders had two running backs that rushed for over 1,000 yards and a third that piled up 984 on the ground. “We like to run the ball a lot and with me, we’d run some zone reads and some triple option,” Wilson said. “All of our backs are fast so that’s the way the offense went most of the time.”

Unfinished business

As a senior next season, Wilson might get a chance to throw the ball more, and he has some unfinished business in the playoffs. “It was fun being able to lead an undefeated team in my first full season as the starting quarterback,” Wilson said. “Next year, I think I need to work on not forcing it so much. I need to work on throwing the ball away. This year, I had a little trouble with that, trying to force it.”

Wilson has already heard from West Virginia University and Liberty as he looks ahead toward playing college football. With his standout play at safety, he might be recruited to play defense. “For right now, I think I’d be a safety if I played in college because I’ve been doing so well there,” Wilson said. “If I had a better route and offer to play quarterback, I’d definitely play quarterback.”

Working with NFA since he was in the eighth grade has helped Wilson develop as a quarterback, and he gives a lot of the credit to Coach Mansur Ivie. “NFA has helped me develop a lot,” Wilson said. “I used to have a lot of mechanical problems, nothing really major, but I had a few bad things. Coach Ivie, he’s really helped me work on the kinks and he even came to our game this season against Cabell Midland, our big rivals. He came in and watched the game and we worked the rest of that weekend. He’s helped me a lot.”

Ivie said Wilson has been a pleasure to coach. “The biggest compliment I can pay to Clark is he’s a football player,” Ivie said. “This isn’t just some euphemism for tough guy, he’s also an All-State safety. After meeting him at the Indianapolis camp in February, I sat down and watched his highlight tape from his sophomore season and was impressed. Clark has a strong and quick arm that needs to be fine-tuned, but he could play quarterback in college. I’m thinking after a dedicated off-season he really has a chance to have a great senior season and get more recognition.”

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Scot Gregor is an award-winning sportswriter for the Chicago Daily Herald. In addition to writing about Big 10 and Notre Dame football, Gregor has also covered the White Sox, Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls and college basketball. He grew up in Pittsburgh and watched the Steelers rise to prominence in the 1970s. Gregor has a B.S. degree in Journalism from Ohio University