Thursday, September 24, 2009
And his 183 yards Monday is the most by a Colts tight end.
By Reggie Hayes
September 24, 2009
INDIANAPOLIS – Colts tight end Dallas Clark’s 80-yard touchdown catch against the Dolphins on Monday night put him on his way to one of the best performances by a tight end in the last 40 years.
But it’s not the longest or most significant catch of his life.
Clark went 95 yards on a pass reception in the University of Iowa’s win over Purdue in 2002, a moment he says changed the direction of his career.
“It was a little five-yard out and I broke a couple tackles and went down the sidelines,” Clark said. “That’s pretty much why I’m here today.”
Clark believes that single play put him in the NFL.
“That play was the one that made people say, ‘Oh, wow, a tight end went 95 yards?’” Clark said. “That kind of got NFL teams’ attention and kind of after that, everything took off.”
Clark later scored the game-winning touchdown on a seven-yard fourth-down pass from Brad Banks in Iowa’s 31-28 victory.
“That game pretty much got the radars going,” Clark said of the NFL’s interest in his talents. “That was special and people still talk about it when I go back to Iowa. I know it’s just Iowa, but to the people, that game was important, too, it was a special game. It’s really just one of those things where your number was called and you try to make the best of it.”
The Colts picked Clark in the first round in the 2003 draft and the rest, as they say, is history.
And he’s clearly not done “making the best of it” when it comes to being an impact player on the Colts’ offense. Clark’s 183 yards receiving in the Colts’ 27-23 win over the Dolphins marked the most by a tight end in Colts history and was the fourth-highest by an NFL tight end since 1970. He was one yard short of making the Top 10 all-time by a Colts receiver.
Quarterback Peyton Manning read the defense and found Clark over the middle on the Colts’ first play from scrimmage. Clark broke one tackle and seemed on the verge of losing his balance, but used his deceptive speed to go the distance.
He said he didn’t feel he was going down at any point.
“It was one of those ‘Wait a minute, I’m still up,’ moments,” Clark said. “I was thinking it took me awhile to recover and I thought people would come up behind me, but the pattern of the play removed a lot of people from the area. So that helped me get that acceleration back.”
Clark had big catches, including a 49-yarder, on both of the Colts’ touchdown-scoring drives in the second half.
His 183 yards have been topped by tight ends only three times since 1970: the Broncos’ Shannon Sharpe had 214 in 2002, the Jets’ Rich Caster 204 in 1972 and the Browns’ Ozzie Newsome 191 in 1984.
Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that Clark had such a big game, considering starting wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez is out with a knee injury.
Clark said he was happy to see the younger guys – receivers Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie and running back Donald Brown – make big plays at crucial points of the Miami game.
“You can practice all you want and prepare all you want, but the best way to learn how to handle situations like that is to be in them,” Clark said. “You hope the first time you’re in something like that it turns out well for you. Those are critical moments where you have to do everything right, there’s no room for error, and they did it.”
Clark said he believes in the old Tony Dungy rule about not getting too high after a win or too low after a loss. But he acknowledged the Miami win felt special.
“That was a challenge to stay even-keeled,” Clark said. “It was just fun, a great environment. They had everything going. It was just a beautiful football environment, and just a really good team victory.”
The Colts (2-0) will play at Arizona (1-1) at 8:20 p.m. Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium. The game will be on NBC-TV.