Dressing With Purpose
Safety Ryan Clark, who played for Washington during the 2004 and ’05 seasons, has returned to the team after spending the past eight years in Pittsburgh. He explains why he’s a man of the people, those funky socks, and why he wears No. 21 in practice.
GREG BEDARD: After a play I saw in practice, you kept running and started celebrating with the fans. Were those your relatives?
RYAN CLARK: No, I don't have any relatives out here. But we're all family. Some of these people will never have the opportunity to come to a game. And even if they do, they'll never have the opportunity to get this close to us, touch us, take pictures and get autographs. So they took time out of their day, some of them took off of work. One lady, her husband brought her here for their anniversary—I don’t know who that was for, him or for her. When people do special things, you try to reward them by being kind.
BEDARD: Did you raid Robert Griffin III's sock drawer?
CLARK: No, man. I know you guys only think Robert has the market cornered on socks. But I was doing this before Robert Griffin III got to the NFL. I just do this for me though. I have a ton of socks with me on this trip. I always have a fun backpack of socks. My kids pick them out for me in the offseason, so I wear them when I come to camp. It keeps a little piece of them out here with me while they're at home.
BEDARD: You played two years with the late Sean Taylor in Washington, and you're wearing his No. 21 here in practice. Why?
CLARK: I only wear it to practice. It's something I've been doing since he passed. I myself battled for my life right before Sean passed, so I felt blessed to make it out [Clark had his spleen and gall bladder removed in ’07 due to complications with his sickle cell trait]. To have a friend go shortly after, it was hard, but it also let you know how blessed and lucky we are to be here each day. I tried to change my number officially, but the NFL wouldn't let me. They would let me wear it to practice in Pittsburgh so people knew about it. When people would ask why I had a different number on, others would explain the story about Sean Taylor to them. It always made people talk about him, about the player he was, about the man he was becoming. That's exciting. Wearing it back here in Washington is difficult. There are some fans who never met Sean who say I shouldn't wear it to practice. But I understand. That's why they call them fans; they're fanatics and they're not always right in certain situations. I just try to wear it and honor him. I know I'm not the player or the athlete he was, but he was my friend, and I want people to remember him.