Tuesday, July 02, 2013

All-time Indy Colts tight ends: Dallas Clark and Marcus Pollard

June 29th, 2013

By Mike Chappell

Dallas Clark forged a record-setting career. It included a season for the ages.

Marcus Pollard had a career that defied the odds. It included an infectious smile and big-play capabilities.

Nice pair.

Former Colts coach Tony Dungy was associated with each, and impressed by both.

“Marcus was a very good player,’’ he said. “Dallas Clark was special, a unique guy.

“He was Marcus Pollard (before Pollard joined the NFL); in my mind just a little bit better than Marcus Pollard.’’

Clark and Pollard took drastically different paths to the Colts and NFL, but the final destination is the same. They’re the tight ends on The Star’s all-time Indianapolis Colts team.

Clark was the Colts’ 2003 first-round draft pick, the 24th overall selection. He established himself as an elite prospect in his final season at Iowa by winning the John Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end.

Pollard was What have we got to lose? acquisition. Then-general manager Bill Tobin signed him in January 1995 as a free agent with intriguing athleticism and potential, but no real football pedigree. Pollard averaged 7.3 points and 5.0 rebounds as a power forward at Bradley University.

“They were real similar,’’ long-time Colts assistant coach Clyde Christensen said. “They both could block. They both could hold up at the point of attack and they were special with their athleticism.

“They could make big plays at tight end.’’

In nine seasons, Clark set the standard for Colts tight ends. He ranks No. 1 in club history with 427 receptions and 46 touchdowns, and No. 2 to Pro Football Hall of Famer John Mackey with 4,887 yards. He also owns club single-season records for tight ends with 100 catches (2009), 1,106 yards (’09) and 11 touchdowns (’07).

The 427 receptions rank No. 4 among all players, trailing Marvin Harrison (1,102), Reggie Wayne (968) and Raymond Berry (631).

Clark’s 2009 season went down as one of the best in NFL history by a tight end and resulted in his only Pro Bowl appearance. He joined Tony Gonzalez as the only tight end with at least 100 receptions. At the time, his 1,106 yards were the 14th-most by a player at his position.

“Dallas just allowed you to do so much,’’ Christensen said. “People remember all of those good (statistical) years, but they forget how often we asked him to block defensive ends in pass protection.

“The only reason (Brandon) Stokley and (Austin) Collie and those guys were able to become great slot guys was because our tight ends did what they did. They were that fullback-type guy when we want to our three-wide package.’’

When Clark arrived in 2003, Pollard’s career with the Colts was winding down. It was a 10-year stint that saw Pollard appear in 146 games with 102 starts, and one that generated 263 receptions, 3,391 yards and 35 touchdowns. The receptions are No. 3 and the yards No. 4 in club history among tight ends.

The transition was natural and seamless. Pollard remained the team’s most productive tight end in 2003-04, but the blueprint was clear. As Clark began to emerge in the passing game, Pollard assumed a heavier workload as the blocking tight end.

It was similar to how the pairing of Pollard and Ken Dilger unfolded.

“Dilger was the tight end and Marcus was kind of Dallas Clark,’’ Dungy said. “After Dilger left, Marcus became the all-purpose tight end. His role diminished a little bit when we got Dallas and Dallas kind of took his role, like Marcus took Ken’s role.’’

Before becoming subservient to Clark, Pollard frequently flashed his big-play prowess. His 86-yard touchdown at New Orleans in 2001 is the sixth-longest reception in club history. He also had a 70-yard reception at Jacksonville in 2003 and a 50-yard TD at Miami in 2000.

In retrospect, Christensen remains most impressed with Pollard’s ability to make himself into an elite, consummate tight end.

“It was surprising because of the mentality of being able to play our game,’’ he said. “I wasn’t surprised he could become a great passing-game tight end. The surprising thing was he was able to learn the in-line skills like he did as fast as he did.’’

Christensen noted the personnel staff is adept at finding a tight end with pass-catching skills, or one who excels as a blocker.

“But it’s so hard to find both in one guy, where he can hold up in-ling and he can be a real threat on the perimeter,’’ he said. “Dallas and Marcus gave us both.

“Then you add in the character and the fact they were probably two of the favorite locker room guys I’ve ever been around.’’

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