11W Recruiting: Great Expectations

By Jeremy Birmingham on August 21, 2013 at 4:00p

"No pressure, no diamonds." - Some guy, somewhere, probably.

Pressure? What pressure?Danny Clark is all smiles about his future. Will it be at Ohio State?

When you're the future of Ohio State football at quarterback, the pressure is very real. It's suffocating to anyone but the strongest personality and it has crushed more than its fair share of dreams. There's expectations that come with donning the scarlet and gray and taking the snaps in front of 106,000 people, both on and off the field.

There's a gravity to knowing that the hopes and dreams of millions of people rest on your ability to read a defense and make an accurate throw into coverage. Knowing the vicarious successes and failures of an entire state and one of the largest alumni bases in the country is a tall order, and it's certainly not for everyone.

Don't tell that to Massillon freshman quarterback Danny Clark. Don't tell that to Jeff Clark, Danny's father, either. This is exactly what the phenom  — dubbed "the Prototype" — was made for, and the 6-foot-3, 205 pound 15-year old relishes the chance. He's working in earnest for a chance to become the starting quarterback on the varsity team at Massillon as a true freshman, an almost unheard of opportunity at one of the country's most recognizable high school programs. Playing football for the Tigers could be the best thing for him as he enters his high school career with immense pressures — like the presumption that he'll be Ohio State's quarterback in 2017 — because at Massillon football is a way of life. Football is life, and that's just fine with Danny Clark.

"I love everything about the game. When I'm out there on the field, all I think about is my team, and winning with my brothers," the younger Clark said. "My training routine is the same as every other varsity Tiger football player. My offensive co-ordinator is my quarterback coach also. So right now I train six days a week with my teammates, and have quarterback classroom study on Sunday, usually. It's a normal Massillon football schedule."

A normal schedule for a high school student just about to step onto his high school campus for the first time hardly involves quarterback classroom study on a Sunday afternoon, but there's not much "normal" about Danny Clark, and there's hardly ever been according to his dad, a former high school prospect himself that originally signed with Northern Illinois out of high school. 

"I realized Danny had a lot of ability, a lot of potential, when he played his first year at six-years old. He was just a lot bigger, stronger, and more aggressive when it came to contact," Jeff Clark said of his son. "I always said that if he was solving calculus problems at six, we would have done our best to cultivate that interest; it just so happened that football was where he showed the most talent. There is a book by Malcolm Gladwell called "Outliers," and a lot of my parenting views, especially when it comes to sports, or exceptional talent in general, come from that book. As Danny's coach up until 7th-grade, I pushed him very hard, but always made sure he knew that I loved him very much. Youth football was crazy for us, we had to drive over an hour away to play in a league with no weight rules for the ball-carrier so Danny could still carry the ball. A lot of people don't know this, but Danny was a tailback until 5th-grade. He could always sling the football, but we needed him in other places on our team. Then when 7th-grade started, I handed him over to the middle school coaches, and stepped back into a Dad role. At this point all I can do is be as supportive, and positive as possible with my son. We know there is a lot of pressure from the outside for Danny to live up to the hype. He says he doesn't think about it and I believe him. I don't do anything to add undue pressure or stress. I ask him how it went at practice. He tells me, and I tell him to keep it up. That's about it."

As Danny tries to take the reins at Massillon, those "dad days" are becoming more prevalent for Jeff and the challenge of remaining regular high school student — that just so happens to be blessed with well above regular physical talents — gets tougher for the Prototype, especially in a town where football is your first love, your first religion and your first words.

Clark is big, strong and accurate - and 14 years oldDanny Clark gets instruction from Buckeye offensive co-ordinator Tom Herman.

"My dad always tells me to be humble, and to appreciate the fact that people want to take time out of their day to talk to me about football, and tell me "good luck," Danny said of his growing recognition. "I love being a Massillon Tiger, we have the best fans in the world and I love talking to our fans about football. You find Tiger fans in every restaurant in Massillon, but I don't feel any fame, necessarily, I just feel like a lot of people love the Tigers, and want to see me do well. People think I live my life training for football non-stop, but that's not true. I have a girlfriend, I hang out with my friends and go to bonfires like everyone else and I live a pretty normal life. Except with people stopping me often to ask if I'm Danny Clark."

The Clark's are aware that football is just one avenue for Danny's potential success, not the only one. They are focused however on the positives of Danny's abilities, the knowledge that if things are done the right way the future is limitless for the left-handed signal-caller. 

"We don't entertain any negative thoughts of any kind regarding what may or may not happen," the elder Clark said when considering his son's future. "If you think like that, you're preparing to fail. If I were to worry that any offer — whether Ohio State or anyone else — won't come, then we're selling the idea that another man on this planet can do what Danny can't, and we simply don't believe it. I've been coaching football, and I have been a football fan as long as I can remember and I have never seen a kid at 15 years old who can do what Danny can do, or one that is as physically developed as he is. Most of the coaches in the Big Ten, and several SEC coaches have told us that as well. We're very, very confident that we are right where we want to be as long as he continues to make the right decisions on and off the field."

The learning process on the field for the younger Clark has the feel of a baptism by fire, but it's something he relishes and realizes will help him down the line. 

"I think the the most challenging thing about (adjusting to) varsity will be the defensive reads with teams trying to disguise coverage against me," the quarterback said of his transition to high school football. "In our spread offense there are a lot of keys, and reads that determine where to go with the ball, and I would say that would be the biggest change from last year. More complex defenses."

Buckeye dreams are nothing new to Danny ClarkJust a freshman, Clark has dreamed of Ohio State for years.

"Right now my only goal is to help Massillon win a state championship this year. I don't feel any added pressure being younger. I'm treated like every other varsity player on our team. A lot is expected from every Massillon Football player, and we expect a lot from ourselves. When you put that "Massillon" on your chest, something magical happens. You want to play hard not only for every person in the city, but for the guys who made our program what it is for the last 122 years."

It's clear that Clark "gets it." He's got a maturity beyond his years to go along with his impressive physical stature. Danny is becoming a bit of a celebrity, but that's not taking his focus off of what's important for him and his Tiger teammates. Still, the occasional brush with college football dignitaries impact him as it would any teenager; he's been left star-struck and pondering a future in the stadium he grew up dreaming about a few times recently.

"The first time I met Coach (Urban) Meyer I was just star struck. I had this whole plan of what I wanted to say to him, but when he shook my hand I could barely even speak. It was like meeting a famous actor or something. It was crazy," Clark said, unable to hide his affection for Ohio State football. "The Buckeyes have always been my team. I grew up in Columbus and I have always dreamed of being a Buckeye. When me and my brothers were little, any time we would drive down 315, where we could see the stadium my dad would say the same thing. 'There it is boys, there's where you'll be living. In the towers where the football players stay,' now the football players don't live in the towers, but we still look over every time we go down 315."

"When I was little when my dad would tuck me in bed he would tell me a story about a boy who was the greatest football player ever born. He would talk about how this boy would dominate football all of his life, and then go on to lead the Buckeyes to a national championship," Danny continued. "At the end of the story my dad would have tears in his eyes, and tell me the story was about me. I would go to sleep thinking about that and I never forgot those stories. My dad has always told me and my brothers we can do anything. Whatever our dreams are, just go make them happen."

Danny Clark is just like most of the young men who grew up in Ohio rooting for the Scarlet and Gray, but he's just a bit different, too.

He's ready for his chance to shine on the big stage at Massillon this fall and where ever his dreams take him after that.



Comments Show All Comments

BKLYN_Buckeye's picture

He is going to be a complete FREAK SHOW! I'm excited to see his development. Great write up, Jeremy.

Alpo's picture

Nice arcticle Birm, sounds like a really grounded kid for only being 15. Hopefully he doesn't stray from his dream and we get to see him in the shoe down the line- long,long line...

Cavluv23's picture

This guys dad seems to be "A" OK !

World travel is my passion spreading the word and grace of Ohio in every corner of the world . 

DaytonBuckeye4life's picture

Great story hope to see him put on that scarlet and grey someday and win us a national championship

osubuck57's picture

Still can't get over his size for 15, 6'3, 205. Hope he continues on his path, and continues to stay humble.


GoBucksOSU's picture

Being that tall at only 15 years old seem unreal. Seriously, how tall will he be when he enters college?

Rt.50Bucksfan's picture

Wondering the same thing about my son! 12 yrs old, 6'1" and 165lbs. just starting 6th grade. He's been playing basketball since 1st grade but I haven't let him start football yet because of the weight restrictions. Great article, wish the best for this kid and hope to see him in scarlet & gray! Go Bucks! 

Mirror Lake Jump's picture

I was 5'7 and 120 pounds at 15 years old. This is incredible.

RoyWalley's picture

Nice story.  Good luck Danny.   Hope to be cheering you on in the future at the Shoe.
Go Bucks

BROSEPH's picture

Massillon will be on Fox Sports Ohio/STO twice this year I believe.  FYI

CCatanzaro's picture

"Is very bad to steal Jobu's rum; is very bad.."

Dairy-fed intellect and pure, unhinged sass.


buckeyeEddie27's picture

Hats for bats.  Keep bats warm.        Gracias.

I know there's a game Saturday, and my ass will be there.

CCatanzaro's picture

Wow, what a well spoken kid.  Grounded, seemingly solid parenting, and confidence without losing humility.  I can't wait to see him suit up if (when?) the time comes!  GO BUCKS!  10 DAYS!!!!!

Dairy-fed intellect and pure, unhinged sass.


Buckeye06's picture

Is he done growing?  I mean could he legit outgrow being a QB?  If he was like 6'8''? 
Great story and nice to hear about the future kids

cinserious's picture

If he outgrows QB, he can still become a beasty wideout!

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

Larryp713's picture

I wish Danny all the best, and by that, I wish he gets a chance to play high school football at a great school like Massillon and enjoy the thrill of HS football in Ohio. Please don't let him think about measureables and transferable skills until his junior year. Let this guy enjoy being a kid.
I love Ohio State, and would love to have Danny mature into a starting QB there. For that to happen, this young man must be able to grow up and be the type of person that can handle that pressure with the mixture of humility and respect, much like Braxton has. The silliness of being first is to destroy the person Danny could become, by dropping expectations on him based on pure conjecture of disconnected people.
If I could speak to Danny, I would tell him to enjoy high school. Don't worry about college yet... it will be there when he is ready. Have fun, play the game, and keep getting better. all the best to him.



Jeremy Birmingham's picture

It's a new - strange - world, there's no way for a player like Danny to escape the spotlight in his situation. His family is embracing it and using it as a reminder of how blessed he is, but also how what he does is going to be picked over by people his whole life. A sobering thought for the 15-year-old Birm, for sure. 

Larryp713's picture

I think after watching the Marinovich project, I am much more protective of uber-talented kids. Danny has a great family, I hope he can enjoy this as much as he should.



Jeremy Birmingham's picture

I actually asked the family about Marinovich, they're intimately aware of who he was and make a number of strides to ensure that Danny isn't some robot. He's a kid, they want him to be a kid. 

He's allowed to eat Twinkies.

Oldschoolbuck's picture

Props to you, Birm, for asking that question!
As soon as I started reading the article I immediately thought of Todd Marinovich and his psycho dad.
It sounds like the Clark's are keeping him well grounded while embracing his obvious talent and freak athleticism. I like his dad's point that if he were a prodigy in math they'd want him to get all he could out of that ability.
Hope they keep feeding him the Twinkies, too (at least once on a while)!

Iwearmocs's picture

6'3'' 205 at 15? holy cow.  Is he a good enough runner for Urban's offense? I don't want him to recruit a guy like Brantley like he did at Florida who doesn't really fit but was a local hero, if that makes any sense.

FROMTHE18's picture

Any truth to the rumor that he would commit as soon as he gets an OSU offer?

Jeremy Birmingham's picture

Definitely easy to get that impression, and you'd have to try pretty hard to make an argument that it's not accurate.

biggy84's picture

Great article, Birm! Thank you!

Jeremy Birmingham's picture

Appreciate you reading it.

N8thegr8's picture

Someone teach that kid how to make that block O right with those gloves!
In all seriousness, my high school (Austintown Fitch) used to play in the same league (Federal League) as Massillon.... Was always a tough, competitive game. Good luck to him in reaching his goals.

"Play for Ohio State or get beat by Ohio State. That simple." - Kirk Barton 

cajunbuckeye's picture

Damn Birm, that is a great read. This is my first time hearing about this young man. A very impressive athlete for 15 years old. Can't wait to see this story progress!

An angry fan...rooting for an angry team...led by angry coaches

FitzBuck's picture

Good luck kid I hope you start this season and any failures you encounter make you stronger.  
I just hope he takes care of business in the classroom as well.  How many times have we heard about a prodigy that fell short only to have nothing to fall back on.  

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

LouGroza's picture

That's definitely a fine line to walk as a parent in that situation. So far so good. Sounds like a great kid with a great attitude. Parents doing the right things and no one can ask for more to this point. Hope all works out for all involved. Nice story.

zebiraross's picture

Last 3 paragraphs...Wow..


DenBuck's picture

Thanks - wonder if he has ANY offers yet? It will be fun to watch him grow. 

Buckeye For Life

InHartWeTrust's picture

Good read.  My parents graduated from Massillon, I went to a neighboring school.  My cousins played for Massillon, and I know how serious they take their football there (although we beat them a few times in my days).  As much as I dislike Massillon in general, I wish the kid the absolute best, and would love to see him in the S&G some day.  Seems like a great kid, I hope he takes the time to stop and smell the roses along the way.

L2yan's picture

I remember Danny when he was living in canal. Him and my nephew played on the line because they were too big. Wish my nephew played tight end when he moved to Nashville.  Now he just plays basketball. He's 15 also and is already 6'7 oh btw my grandpas cousin is Jerry Lucas.  Someone please call Matta.  ? 

Buckeye from Kansas

zbd's picture

I've heard about Danny Clark in other sports stories. Great information. With a grain of salt though. Wasn't Justin Zwick supposed to be great? We've always got Chris Spielman to keep him in line. 

MN Buckeye's picture

As always, great article, Birm! Great to learn about this talented kid, and the father sounds like the best around in helping him be a kid and helping him realize how blessed he really is.

Joe4's picture

It seems like oftentimes, phenoms have messed up parents. Thankfully this seems like an exception -- pops seems really thoughtful and responsible. Nice read!

ScarletNGrey01's picture

Wow, interesting story.  Not sure what to think, part inspirational and just a tiny bit disturbing.  A lot of pressure for someone that young no matter how you try to shrug it off.  Hope his dreams come true and he stays humble yet confident.  If he lives up to his potential and commits to tOSU and gets mentored by Urban ... what an incredible story that could be.

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

Ashtabula's picture

I agree with the somewhat disturbing.  I'm not sure I buy the dad of the year talk.  The bedtime story just doesn't sit right with me.

pjtobin's picture

Great story. I wish him the best of luck and health. My freshman yr in highschool coach Jack Hatum (sp) came to my school from Massillon. He left my jr. year. What a great man he was. A great coach with state championships under his belt. 

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

irishfury's picture

In case people havn't seen him.  Its really unfair how talented he is compaired to other kids his age.

SGTBuckeye83's picture

Yeah, he has like 6in on everybody. His challenge will be not getting complacent because anybody with his physical advantage would make those kids look ridiculous. I will say this though.... Kids got skill. Pretty accurate, able to throw the long ball and makes throwing on the run look easy. That's good to see because the running portion is to hard to judge. It takes the entire other team to bring him down. Won't be that way this year for him. But I do hope he continues to develop and earns a scholarship. Heard Tebow say one time that his dad used to tell him " Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work as hard". Wise words.

Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear, or a fool from any direction.

Evansvillebuckeye's picture

I don't know about this guy, do you think Urban can do anything with a left handed quarterback?

cinserious's picture

He would talk about how this boy would dominate football all of his life, and then go on to lead the Buckeyes to a national championship.

I can live with that.

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

BuckeyeFreak4844's picture

This story is wonderful i look forward to watching him in High School, but hope it all works out so that i am watching him dominate in the Horseshoe!

Michigan Sucks!

Steve_Not_Chad's picture

I'll be in the stands watching him for the next four years. Curious to see how he does at the varsity level. Right now one of Massillon's possible starters at QB is their 5'8" kicker.

ChazBuckeye's picture

"When I was little when my dad would tuck me in bed he would tell me a story about a boy who was the greatest football player ever born. He would talk about how this boy would dominate football all of his life, and then go on to lead the Buckeyes to a national championship," Danny continued. "At the end of the story my dad would have tears in his eyes, and tell me the story was about me. I would go to sleep thinking about that and I never forgot those stories. My dad has always told me and my brothers we can do anything. Whatever our dreams are, just go make them happen."

One of the coolest (if not the coolest) story of a recruit I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Thank you Jeremy for this story.  

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

ARMYBUCK's picture

Thanks Birm, great article.  When I see stories like this I try to keep my expectations grounded by thinking of Justin Zwick.  I believe he led Orrville to a state championship his freshman year before transferring to Massillon.  I remember a lot of hype surrounding him and deservedly so considering his accomplishments at the high school level.  I hope this kid continues to handle success well and wish him the best, preferrably in scarlet and gray!

36buck's picture

the kicker david comes from a very wealthy powerful family.  the money comes from camelot music.  their name is on the indoor faciility there.  think they live in jackson though.  a lot of "family" pressure to start him at qb.  what a shame.  and he going to scum.  sad.

MAVBuck's picture

Cant wait to put my son to bed telling him the same stories. He can be anything he wants as long as its 100%.