Damone Clark doesn't like hearing about all of the accolades. It's a distraction for him as he continues his meteoric rise as one of college football's best linebackers.
But with every game Clark continues to dazzle on the field, it's kind of hard not to root for him and his journey.
A local Louisiana product, Clark was one of those midtier recruits out of Southern Lab who seemed destined for LSU. The first couple of years were spent learning behind the likes of Devin White, Patrick Queen and Jacob Phillips. When he finally received an opportiunity to be a leader of this linebacker corps in 2020, he faltered.
A month into the season, Clark had completely fallen out of the rotation as he struggled to adapt to an every down role. There were long days trying to figure out what he needed to do to improve but it wasn't until an offseason conversation with Coach Ed Orgeron and then linebackers coach Blake Baker where Clark really felt like he turned a corner.
"I sat down with Coach Baker and he told me just to start over and I'm very appreciative of him," Clark said. "We watched film and he points out different tendencies and pointing out different formations and that's how I'm able to go out there and stay faster because I know the formations and prepared for it."
After a slow start against UCLA where everyone on the defense looked to be a step slow, Clark has improved in every facet of his game from coverage in the middle of the field to tackling, making the biggest leap on the team in terms of improvement. As his good games continued to pile on top of one another, Clark's leadership really stepped into the forefront.
Missing players like Andre Anthony, Ali Gaye, Derek Stingley and Elias Ricks in recent weeks, Clark's voice has become all the more important for a depleted defensive unit looking to stay afloat.
"I'm the quarterback of the defense and being one of the leaders on the team, it helps me push other guys to maximize our potential," Clark said. "We still have a lot of room to improve and we've got a lot of things we're continuing to build on. The biggest thing we need to do is just trust the coaching, trust the things we saw on film and just go out there and execute."
As it currently stands, Clark has racked up 99 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss, forced two fumbles and an interception. He was recently named to the Butkus Award semifinalist list and is having a likely All-SEC and All-American type season.
But again, the biggest focus for Clark isn't the recognition or the awards but seeing this team finish the season strong.
"Everything will take care of itself but my biggest thing and my biggest focus is to go out there each game and give my brothers everything I have," Clark said. "Most importantly just empty the tank out and no matter what happens empty the tank and live with the results."