The Times West Virginian

Sports

March 20, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN- Upbringing helps shape WVU’s Clarke

MORGANTOWN — Will Clarke is an imposing figure at 6-feet, 6-inches tall, even if he isn’t wearing his No. 98 West Virginia University football uniform as he does throughout the fall as a defensive end for the Mountaineers.

He is a man from Taylor Allderdice High in Pittsburgh, and even though that is in Squirrel Hill, which is a nice suburb, the school is fed by many other neighborhoods that are less-than-desirable addresses.

As part of Dr. Carolyn Atkins’ “Student “Athletes Speak Out” class, which for the last 23 years has trained athletes in the art of public speaking, bringing them before the area’s youth to offer stories out of their own backgrounds that are intended to inspire, Clarke was speaking of his father and his family life.

Too often in these settings, be they part of Dr. Atkins’ class at West Virginia or anywhere else, such a speech would inevitably lead to talking about the abandonment of the family by that father and the battle the athlete had to make to overcome growing up without a male role model.

Certainly, that was what was expected from Clarke’s speech.

Yet, while he would delve into that topic, he would do so from the outside looking in.

“Most of my friends were African-American,” Clarke, himself an African-American, would say. “We played high school football together, hung out together … so we had similar lives. However, there was one aspect of our lives that was quite different. I was the only who had a father who was a consistently active and involved parent.”

The shame of this is that Clarke was the exception to the rule.

“Pope John 23rd once said: ‘It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.’ Fortunately, my sister and I have a ‘real’ father. My friends were not as lucky,” Clarke said.

This, Clarke realizes, gave him a huge advantage … some of it athletically, but more an advantage in life.

“My dad didn’t tell me how to live; instead he lived, and I watched him do it,” he said.

Clarke had a role model, someone whose example he could follow.

“My dad made me want to be someone,” he said.

Will Clarke’s father, Bill, had played basketball in high school and at Duquesne University in 1979. He opted to play in an effort to make his father proud of him and he participated not only in football but basketball and track.

One thing he noticed rather quickly that whenever he played, his father would be there to support him, while that wasn’t the case with his friends.

“Even though that occurred from the time I first got involved in sports in grade school, I didn’t realize the importance of his support until I entered high school and saw that others didn’t have it,” Clarke said. “Even though he didn’t realize it, my father pushed me to beat the odds.”

While others were getting no direction, Will Clarke was being shown right from wrong.

“For example, he reinforced the idea that gangs and drugs were not for us,” Clarke said. “As a result, my sister and I were never in trouble with the law or with our schools.”

Instead, he emphasized the importance of a good education, something that any educator in a big-city school will tell you is that too often this is not pushed from within the family.

Because of this, Clarke will be the only male in his family to graduate from a four-year university, and his sister has graduated from a community college and is working toward a certificate to work with special-needs children.

Because they had a father who cared, who lived up to his responsibilities in an era and area where this is not the norm, they are prepared both educationally and emotionally for what lies ahead in life, be it professional football or wherever life may take Will Clarke.

“The absentee father is a big problem in society today,” Clarke said in concluding his talk. “Research has shown that many adult sons who are abandoned by their fathers have problems developing self-confidence … forming lasting emotional attachments …recognizing their feelings … or being expressive with people they care about.”

He wrapped up the message he was delivering with an apt quotation:

“A father is neither an anchor to hold us back … nor a sail to take us there … but a guiding light whose love shows us the way.”

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Sports
  • WVU’s Smallwood waives preliminary hearing

    West Virginia running back Wendell Smallwood, arrested on a felony charge of witness intimidation in a first-degree murder case, waived his preliminary hearing Monday, his case now being moved to Superior Court, where more serious crimes are argued, according to The News Journal.

    July 29, 2014

  • Return to Mountain State exciting for new sports writer

    When I packed my belongings out of my Morgantown apartment in May, fresh with a journalism degree from West Virginia University, I thought I had ended a chapter of my life and closed the book on my experience inside the great Mountain State forever.
    It wasn’t until I received a phone call back in my hometown of Canton, Ohio, from the Times West Virginian that the idea of a return to the area became a possibility. The opportunity to begin my professional career in an area that I’ve become comfortable with for the past several years was too good to pass by.

    July 29, 2014

  • Black Diamond.jpg Black Diamond Express looking to add elite players

     Travel sports are said to be the cream of the crop for young athletes.
    Generally, youth are selected to play on travel league teams based upon a heightened skill level or an ability that exceeds the everyday athlete.
    That’s what the Black Diamond Express softball team in Morgantown is looking for, along with a few new elite players.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Steelers’ Spence caps lengthy comeback

    The whistle blew and Sean Spence sprinted forward, each cathartic step distancing the linebacker from the horrific knee injury that threatened to end his NFL career before it even really began.

    July 28, 2014

  • All tickets claimed for LeBron’s homecoming show

    LeBron James’ Ohio hometown says fans quickly claimed the thousands of tickets available for the homecoming event expected to be his first public appearance in the state since announcing his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    July 28, 2014

  • FSU to hold Falcon Fantasy Camp

    Ever want to be a college football coach? Now you’ll have your chance thanks to Fairmont State University’s Falcon Fantasy Camp.

    July 28, 2014

  • Lawyer: Wife plotted to take over Sterling trust

    A lawyer argued Monday that the estranged wife of Donald Sterling plotted to strip his client from the family trust that owned the Los Angeles Clippers after the head of the NBA said she couldn’t negotiate a sale of the franchise unless she owned all the shares.

    July 28, 2014

  • Were Bowlsby’s fears about college athletics’ future justified?

    I have never met or even talked to Bob Bowlsby, commissioner of the Big 12 Conference.
    But I did read a lengthy story on his 45-minute address to reporters last week on Media Day in Dallas, Texas. Among other things, Bowlsby forecast a startling change threatening the existence of intercollegiate athletics as we have known for these many, many years.

    July 28, 2014

  • Steelers’ Wheaton eyeing chance after tough rookie year

    Markus Wheaton realizes the pressure is there, but he doesn’t mind.

    July 28, 2014

  • Post 17 #7 Post 2 #12 mw.JPG Post 17 falls short in Area II championship

    Sometimes getting a bad game out of your system is what a team needs.
    Post 17 Fairmont is hoping that they’ve now gotten all of its bad games out of the way, falling to Post 2 Morgantown, 10-0, via a 7th inning mercy rule, crowning Morgantown Area II American Legion champions.
    After playing 18 innings the night before, Fairmont couldn’t seem to get anything going at East Fairmont High School Sunday afternoon.
    As rain clouds loomed over the field, so, too, did one settle in over Post 17’s offense, Fairmont collecting just four hits the entire game.
    “Definitely not one of our better games as a team,” Fairmont’s Austin Norman said of his team’s performance. “We’ll come up tomorrow, hit and get on the same page.”

    July 28, 2014 7 Photos

Featured Ads
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos