By Becky Hopf
UA Media Relations
Attention Florence Barnes: it was not your imagination. Ninja Turtles were, in fact, slowly disappearing from your little boy's
No need to call Matlock. This is a mystery easily solved. It seems your kid, Jeremy Clark, was born to be a salesman.
"I had Ninja Turtles," said the massive, 6-foot-3, 309 pound defensive tackle. "I had all four of them. But I'd have like two of three or four different kinds, like the Samurai. And I used to bring them to school and I'd trade them or sell them. I had a backpack full of toys. I'd bring my extra Ninja Turtles and I'd sell them for snack money. I used to sell them for like a dollar. Sometimes I'd bring one that I didn't like, and I'd just give it away for a special snack.
"My mom would come in my room, and she'd see that I didn't have any toys, and she'd ask what happened to my toys. I was like, Â`I don't know.' I never told her that I sold them. She still doesn't know. I guess she's going to find out now, huh? I had race cars I used to sell, too. I used to sell those for like a quarter, fifty cents; just enough so I could get an extra bag of chips," said Clark of his early sales career as a first grader.
In his later childhood years, the Daphne native would try his hand at burning CD's and selling them, but, "That didn't work. It kind of scared me when I learned about piracy and stuff like that, so I quickly got out of that before I even tried it."
Clark has sold himself, proving he is a man who has ambition and is willing to work to make things happen. Within four years of arriving at Alabama, he earned his diploma, graduating in May with a degree in consumer affairs. Now he is taking classes geared toward financial planning. Having his degree already in hand has helped take some of the pressure off worrying about making the grade in the classroom and on the football field. Already he knows he has the route to one future mapped out: he has his degree, a passport that will open all sorts of doors to his business future. Now he wants to polish his work on the field, a key he hopes will open the door to a possible future as a player in the NFL.
Either way, he's enjoying having the degree behind him.
"It makes a world of difference," said Clark who plans to use his degree, toward a career in insurance and real estate. "I'm not saying you don't have to still focus on school work because I'm still in classes, I'm still working hard and doing my school work. But, at the same time, it's less stress because it gives you more time to watch film, study tape and prepare for your opponent for the upcoming week."
Preparing for games this season has been different than in years past. Clark has been a part of an Alabama defense that,
under head coach Mike Shula and coordinator Joe Kines, has established itself over the last few years as one of the best in the nation. This season Alabama has been learning to adjust to life without standouts like DeMeco Ryans, Roman Harper and Charlie Peprah who all graduated to the NFL.
"I don't know if you find a better group on and off the field," Clark said of his current teammates and the all-star group that just graduated after the 2005 season. "I consider all of these guys my best friends. A lot of these guys like Ramzee RobinsonÂ--we came in togetherÂ--the whole 2002 class, I consider them among my best friends, for now, for always. The whole football team, actually; they're like my little brothers because I'm the oldest. But this 2002 class that came in together, they're my best friends. These are guys I'll never forget because we've been through so much together, good and bad. It's guys like Wallace Gilberry
. We're from the same area. Dominic Lee. Keith Saunders
, J.P. Adams, Justin Johnson, all those guys, they'll hold a place in my heart. When I leave here, I'm going to make it a priority that we all keep in contact."
Clark arrived in 2002 to a team that included two players, Atlas Herrion and Kenny King, from his hometown of Daphne. It was a welcome committee that Clark says eased his transition to college life and the college game.
"It was fun because they looked out for me," said Clark of the hometown connection. "If I didn't know where classes were, they'd tell me where to go. They took me under their wings. If I needed something, they were always there. They always made sure I was taken care of. It's one of the things that have always been special about this football team here; guys do that. They look out for each other."
A typical night now with the guys will find Clark playing NCAA 2007 college football or "Fight Night" video games with Adams, Saunders, Johnson, Lee and a few other teammates.
And when he returns home to Daphne, often times you'll find Clark with defensive end Gilberry, who is from nearby Bay Minette, with nets in hands crabbing along Mobile Bay. "Wallace and I go home from time to time and go crabbing on the Fairhope Pier," said Clark who enjoyed growing up near Mobile Bay. "My arms are longer than his, so I'm a little better. I can get down there and just scoop them on up. The last time Wallace and I went crabbing, there was a Jubilee (a phenomenon where, because of oxygen levels in the Bay, crabs and flounders flock to the shore). We wondered why all the crabs were on top of the water, and I called my mom and she told me there was a Jubilee. She was at May Day (a pier in Daphne). We got two big buckets full of crabs. They were all fighting each other. We took them home and boiled them. We ate well for a couple of days."
Clark grew up in a household where he was the only boy. He is the oldest of four. He has three younger sisters. Being the only boy, he says, taught him much.
"You learn responsibility," said Clark. "You have to take care of your three younger sisters while your mom is at work. And you learn how to do yard work. Oh, and you also learn that you will never see the bathroom in the morning. And you'll never like any guy they date."
At Alabama, one of the Tide's largest players dons the largest number. He wears jersey number 99. He wore 74 going into his senior season at Daphne High School, but his coach changed it to play some at tight end. Because 74 was an ineligible number, Clark chose 82.
"But when I got the jersey, the jersey was so little it wouldn't fit over my pads," said Clark, laughing. "The guy who ended up
getting 82 had number 99. It was just a big jersey. So I asked the coach could I switch, and we switched and, there's the 99 story. I like it. It's a universal number. You can play anything with number 99."
It was also during that time he was a high school prospectÂ--he helped lead Daphne to the 6A state championshipÂ--that Clark's tastes were sharply forming. A glance at the player questionnaire he filled out when he signed with Alabama his senior season would likely produce some chuckles, even from his best friends on the Tide team.
His favorite television show, circa 2002? "Ripley's Believe it or Not."
"Yeah, I did watch that," Clark sheepishly admits then quickly moves into a defensive stance. "But I'm fascinated about learning. I love history. I watch The History Channel. I watch science channels, National Geographic. You can ask all my friends: that's what my channels are on. I just enjoy learning, especially different things that are out of the ordinary. I still like to read the Guinness Book of World Records, too."
Where he finds most fascinating there is, "The fingernails. You see these pictures and the nails are so long they're curving over. I don't know what to say about it. I don't ever let mine grow that long."
And his favorite class then was, not PE, but, "Government. I like learning how the government works. My teacher's name was Vicky Fowler, and she was really good. She really taught us how the world works. We learned so much."
Learning is a process Clark continues today, be it in a classroom or on the field.
"Always. Always learning, always studying," said Clark. "You can never learn enough about the game of football and the opponent that you play against every week. You sit down and you just watch film and watch film and you just see certain things start to piece together, and you start putting together a puzzle. It just makes it fun, exciting, to look at something and look at something until it pops out at you. The light comes on. You understand it."
Weeks from now, Clark, who is a senior, will play his last down for the Crimson Tide. He says he will leave a different man than the one who arrived five years ago with the freshman class of 2002. Not that that guy was so bad.
"I've changed a lot," said Clark. "I think I've matured a lot. I used to be a loud-mouth; just talked, just talked. Now I've
settled down. I'm kind of laid back. Whatever happens, happens. I think I'm more easy going. I guess it's just from getting old. I turned 23 on September 6. It just goes by so fast. When you're a redshirt freshman, the older guys tell you, Â`It goes by so fast.' I'm like, Â`Yeah, whatever.' But now I realize, they were right. In a snap of a finger it's right here on me. It's my last one. You learn to appreciate more. You appreciate going to practice more. You appreciate the people around you. This has definitely been a good experience for me, and I hope in the next few weeks that I can make the most of it."