Offensive lineman Garrett Clark moved in from Florida this summer and made an immediate impact on North Gwinnett’s season.
LOGANVILLE — The prospect of playing college football is an exciting one to any high school football player.
But North Gwinnett’s Garrett Clark has even more reason to be excited when he heads off to the University of Southern Mississippi next fall besides taking his game to the next level.
“It’ll be good to be there four years,” the 6-foot-4, 285-pound offensive lineman said prior to practicing with his team Wednesday at Grayson High School in preparation for Saturday’s 2010 Rivalries of Gwinnett All-Star game. “I think it’s the longest I’ve ever been somewhere.”
With his family having moved around the Southeast throughout his life, Clark has always found himself to be quite adaptable — a trait which came in handy as he came into North’s program this summer.
“I think I’ve lived in 20 different houses and gone to 10 different schools,” recalled Clark, who started high school at nearby Loganville before moving to Mainland High School in Daytona Beach, Fla., his sophomore and junior years. “I’ve gone to three different high schools. ... At first, it’s definitely a little hard getting comfortable with a new school and new (classmates and teammates). But it definitely gets easier after a while.”
Clark’s adaptability also came in handy from the football end of things this season.
After playing most of his career in Mainland’s pro-set offense, North’s wide-open spread offense gave him quite a different look.
So did moving back to tackle, a position he played before moving to guard his first season at Mainland.
Through all those changes, Clark’s rock steadiness earned him the admiration of his Bulldog teammates and coaching staff, especially head coach Bob Sphire.
“He was well turned and well coached (at Mainland),” Sphire said of Clark. “So that helped. He always asked good questions. He recognized pretty soon that if what he’d done before didn’t fit in with what we were doing, he’d ask, ‘How do you want me to do it?’ And you didn’t have to tell him a whole lot of times.”
Of course, Clark didn’t come into North completely in the dark about the Bulldogs’ program.
He’d played at North’s Tom Robinson Stadium when Mainland defeated Central Gwinnett 34-14 in the inaugural Progressive Football Challenge at the beginning of his sophomore season.
His first-hand look at the facilities and how things were done at North stayed with him, and he said it not only made his family’s decision on where to settle when they came back to metro Atlanta this summer easier, but also sped up the adjustment period.
“I’d played up here before, and we felt like (North) fit me best,” Clark said.
His arrival at North also couldn’t have come at a better time for the Bulldogs.
After losing two All-State tackles from last season to major Division I college programs — Ju’Wuan James to Tennessee and Austin Shepherd to Alabama — the North line was in need of a steady, experienced leader.
“We had nobody like him on the shelf,” Sphire said. “He’s got really good feet and good balance. And he had the kids’ respect right away. They saw he was a player and that he has passion for the game.”
Clark quickly became one of the cornerstones of a North line that helped opened the way for skill players like C.J. Uzomah, Scotty Hosch, Joe Jones and Tyler Nemec to lead an offense that rolled up 371.8 yards and 35.1 points per game as the Bulldogs (11-1) won their second straight Region 7-AAAAA title and advanced to the second round of the state playoffs.
After a season of getting used to new surroundings and new teammates, Clark is doing it again — sort of — this week.
Aside from a handful of fellow Bulldogs, he is meeting a lot of new teammates again as part of the All-Star week.
And he’s having plenty of fun with it.
“I’ve had a good time the last few days,” Clark said. “It’s an All-Star game, and it’s my last high school game. So, I’m enjoying it.”