By Danny Cox
Ryan Clark, S #25
Hometown: Marrero, LA
College: Louisiana State University (LSU)
Ryan Clark is a longtime veteran who has become one of the premiere safeties in the NFL. He has patrolled the secondary for the Pittsburgh Steelers since arriving back in 2006, and always made his presence known against opposing offenses. That is even with a medical condition that hinders him and often even prevents him from playing at all.
Through two games in the 2012 season, Clark has only played in one of them, but has racked up eight total tackles which is third best for the Steelers. He has also defended one pass, which has him tied for second with a few others on the team.
The reason that Clark has only played in one game so far is that Pittsburgh’s first opponent happened to be the Denver Broncos, and Clark’s medical condition doesn’t allow him to travel to and/or play at Invesco Field due to the altitude.
Clark has a splenic infarction due to a sickle cell trait which he has dealt with since he was a small child. This kind of condition can become quite dire at high altitudes, and with an elevation of 5,280 feet, that is exactly what the situation is in Denver. This is why the Steelers actually keep Clark from playing in games when they travel there.
Doctors have actually cleared Clark to play in Denver’s thin air environment, but Pittsburgh is taking no chances and therefore has deactivated him for the four games there since 2008.
Ryan Clark is a viable part of the Steelers’ secondary, and would be for any defense in the league. Back at LSU, he started 36 consecutive games and was voted All-SEC second team in 2000. Even though he was a perennial all-star in college, Clark went undrafted and was signed in 2002 by the New York Giants for a tryout of sorts.
Two seasons were all he lasted in New York, and most of that time was spent on special teams or the practice squad. In 2003, he started four games and started to come about as a defensive specialist.
In 2004, Clark signed as a free agent with the Redskins and started coming of his own as a defensive star. During his first season in Washington, he totaled 81 tackles, and then recorded three interceptions in his second season.
2006 was the year that began Clark’s journey with Pittsburgh, and it is where he has not only been able to show his full talents, but also flourish. Since landing with the Steelers, Clark has had 468 tackles, two sacks, and has snagged eight interceptions.
Off the field, Ryan Clark is also an outstanding individual who has participated with United Way and other charities as well. His work putting together football clinics has helped youths in Washington and a vast number of other cities.
Since recovering from his worst bout with a splenic infarction in 2007, Clark has made it a point to raise awareness for sickle cell disease. He does all he can to help in research, treatment, and programming for the disease in areas of Pittsburgh and outside of it as well.
2012 marked the formation of Ryan Clark’s Cure League, which will help raise even more awareness, and hopefully one day discover more treatment and a cure.
With the season still young, Clark is not looking like someone that has already been in the league for a decade. He continues to quietly show the world that there are indeed other players in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ secondary besides Troy Polamalu. Opposing quarterbacks need to never look for the large hair of Polamalu and throw in the opposite direction, because waiting in the shadows will be the immense talent of Ryan Clark.
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Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. His work can be found on Examiner.com.