Darion Clark Took a Detour on the Way to the NFL

Gene Chamberlain

Every offseason there is a sort of underground football going on called The Spring League, a four-team league made up of about 25 players each who are out of work or simply prospects hoping to get into the NFL, CFL, XFL or whatever FL there is out there at the time.

It's kind of a developmental league, but sometimes former big-name players like Johnny Manziel or Kellen Winslow Jr. show up in these things if they're on the outs. 

There have been several Spring League products sign in the NFL in recent years like Tani Tupou of the Falcons, or Griff Whalen, Cameron Hunt and Beau Sandland.

There is also a showcase event something like baseball has, called the Pacific Pro Scrimmage. It's made up of a couple of days of workouts so scouts can come in and take a look at players.

It's out of these relatively clandestine operations where the Bears have come up with tight end Darion Clark, a 6-foot-7, 235-pound former NCAA basketball player who did not play a down of college football.

Clark took part in both The Spring League, 2019 and the Pacific Pro Scrimmage and had the Colts and Bears interested before signing with the Bears.

What they have is a player who averaged 6.2 points and 4.6 rebounds for UNC, redshirted and averaged 5.7 points and 5.7 rebounds and then 2.6 points and 4.5 reobunds for Southern Cal, and finally finished with a year at Grand Canyon University in the WAC, where he averaged 7.8 points and 6.6 rebounds.

He missed playing football after he'd played through his junior year in high school and was a quarterback in Rockland, Georgia. He nearly came out for Southern Cal's team as a junior because some friends who played football tried talking him into it, but after a shoulder surgery he stuck to basketball and went on to GCU.

So what can the Bears expect from a tight end who was a high school quarterback and hasn't played football other than The Spring League since he was about 16 or 17 years old?

Well, nothing at this point actually. He's a long-term project at best, and players like Clark usually are destined to be roster cuts. Putting a player of this type on the practice squad is even a bit of a risk since the players on that team are used for practicing and require some skills and experience.  Someone with so little experience can get in the way, even get someone injured if not himself.

Athletic ability like Clark's is difficult to find but a 6-7, 235-pound player would most likely have trouble blocking at an NFL level. Their base is high and the lack of weight doesn't lend itself to leaning on someone and pushing. It's also difficult to see how a player with so little experience could know much about route running.

He wasn't a good free-throw shooter, either, hitting 51%.

It's an experiment to watch for a while and pity poor Clark because doing something with this degree of difficulty is all the more difficult with no offseason work due to the COVID-19 virus.

Darion Clark at a Glance

Grand Canyon University, TE

Height: 6-foot-7

Weight: 235

Key Statistic: Zero. As in, didn't play after his junior year of high school.

Practice Squad Chance: 1 on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the most.

2020 Projection: Cut victim.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

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