That's Seahawks' top rookie draft choice Frank Clark, starting to discuss how far he's come -- from being homeless at age 11, starving "without anything" to being a star pass rusher at the University of Michigan, getting kicked off the team in November following an arrest and jailing in his home state of Ohio for assault and domestic violence, to a plea bargain for a reduced charge and now the 63rd-overall pick of the two-time defending NFC champions.
He practiced for the first time as an NFL player Friday, the first day of Seattle's three-day rookie minicamp. Afterward he said how appreciative he was to the Seahawks and their fans (at least most of them).
"I owe a lot to them," the defensive end said. "They've stood by me. They have high hopes for me.
"I'm going to make them proud. ... I'm a great guy. I'm still a kid in some people's eyes; I'm 21...I'm not a complete person. I'm a person who's still learning."
Asked if he cares what people are saying or have said about him, Clark said: "It matters, because at the end of the day you don’t want to be labeled as what some call a ‘woman-beater’ or things of that nature. (But) at the same time it doesn’t bother mem because I know what I did and what I didn’t do.
"I don’t want to get in to the specifics of the case but at the end of the day you know the coaches and the staff here had faith in drafting me and they did their job in what they did and they showed that faith in me."
The Seahawks and Clark presented his full backstory to counter a week of bad publicity and criticism the team did not do a thorough enough investigation into whether Clark struck his girlfriend during an incident at a hotel outside Sandusky, Ohio, in November -- even after the prosecutor there determined Clark did not and agreed to reduce the charge to disorderly conduct, a fourth-degree misdemeanor.
On the field, Clark looked somewhat out of shape; he hasn't played a game since mid-November, though he's been working out at a private facility in Michigan. He made a spin move to get free for one "sack" in the non-contract scrimmaging. On another play he used his renowned speed to blow past an edge blocker.
But he also missed a few plays while on the sideline with team trainers dealing with cramps on one of the warmer -- 70-some degrees -- days Seattle's had this calendar year. Clark joked he's "not used to this weather," that it's far cooler in Michigan.
Coach Pete Carroll said the team is uniquely equipped to help Clark and counsel him.
Here is more of what Clark said today, and below that, all of what Carroll said:
DE FRANK CLARK, DAY 1 OF ROOKIE MINICAMP
(on first day) It went great. It feels good to be back out here playing football, doing what I love to do. Just incredible, I’m blessed. I haven’t played football since November and just being back out here (with) the Seattle Seahawks giving me an opportunity to play the game I love once again, I can’t ask for much more. I shouldn’t be here. I come from a rough town in Los Angeles, Calif. and in Cleveland. Everything that I’ve been through these last several months and throughout my life it’s amazing how I’m still here. I got the organization to thank, the fans, the 12s as we call them, and coach Pete Carroll and the staff for just believing in me.
(on what he’s up against, football-wise) The competition level is heavy. There are guys competing every down, there are guys competing for a job. That’s why we’re here, to compete for a job to get everyone better and to compete for a Super Bowl this year.
(on how the past week has been) It’s been well. My whole thing was just getting down here. I was tired of sitting in Michigan. I have been in Michigan training and just getting ready to get down here and compete for a job. That’s why we’re here.
(on how people perceive him) It matters because at the end of the day you don’t want to be labeled as what some call a ‘woman-beater’ or things of that nature because at the same time it doesn’t bother me because I know what I did and what I didn’t do. I don’t want to get in to the specifics of the case but at the end of the day you know the coaches and the staff here had faith in drafting me and they did their job in what they did and they showed that faith in me.
(on how he characterized what happened in hotel room) Basically I put myself in a bad position. I shouldn’t have been in the position anyway. It shouldn’t have got to the point where it got and we shouldn’t even be talking about it. I put myself in a bad position.
(anything that he wants to correct about the story) Not really, they’re going to write what they want to write. At the end of the day, I know what happened. (There’s) only two people that really know what happened. The case played out how it played out and hopefully it showed what happened and the truth of that. I’ve been honest and upfront the whole time as much as I can. Everything I said to the coaches, to everyone who’s questioning me about it I’ve been honest and upfront from the very beginning and that’s all I can do.
(what’s he have to do to prepare for training camp) Just prepare mentally. I think it’s a mental game more than physical. Once you’re mentally strong enough to handle this game, to handle this pressure of playing in the NFL, it’s the highest level. I just talked to a couple of my teammates and I told them we made it to this point, (there’s) no higher you can go. I’ve been playing the game about 15 years of my life and every year of those 15 until this point I used to pray used to pray used to pray to make it. I made it and I’m thankful. I’m nowhere near a complete player or a complete person but at the same time I got a lot of work to do.
(on his past) This whole thing about DV is a major thing. I don’t believe that (any) woman or (anybody) specific should go through it. In my case I believe I put myself in a bad position.
(his message to the 12s) I owe a lot to them. You know how strong the fans, the 12s believe in the Seahawks, I owe a lot to them. One thing I’m going to do is make them proud. I believe for the most part they’ve stood behind me during this whole time. They’ve been very supportive and they look (at) me seeing a lot of high hopes and I’m going to make them proud.
(on how he’s a different person) I’d say mentally. A weak person would have folded. I’ve stayed mentally strong. I’m mentally solid and all I can do is push forward. All I can do is progress from here, I can move forward and I can continue to become a better person.
(on what he wants fans to know about him) I’m a great guy. I’m still a kid in some people’s eyes. I’m 21 years old. I’m not a complete person. I’m not the perfect person a lot of people look at how they look at it. I’m a person who is still learning, I’m a player who is still learning. I’m a player who still needs coaching. I’m a person who still needs to get talked to by my elders and still taught the way of life because I don’t know it all. I’ve got a lot of people here and a lot of people on my team who can do that.
(on growing up/his rocky past) It’s very rocky. It’s amazing. I sent out a tweet about a week ago saying at the age of 11 I was homeless and at the age of 21 I’m a second round draft pick to the Seattle Seahawks. If it doesn’t get (any) more rocky than that I don’t know what to tell you. … My whole life in California me and my mother struggled. I had two older brothers that were sent away at young ages, they were in to gangs and things of that nature and I saw my mother see me go down those same paths. My mother not working a job and not being able to provide for us financially led us to being homeless. We didn’t have nothing. Everyday whether it was practice or me just finding a meal was a struggle. I remember days I was walking looking for a meal, I remember nights walking and we didn’t have anywhere to stay. All that inspired me to be the man I am today.
PETE CARROLL, DAY 1 ROOKIE MINICAMP
"What a great day, man. This is a great Seahawks day.
"We had a really exciting start to this minicamp. Last night’s meetings and getting out today to the practice fields. One, it’s fun to be back, but to see the spirit of these guys come out firing and practicing like we just did, we had a terrific first day. It was great fun for the coaches to see the new guys after we’ve been thinking about them and going through this process to get them here. Then to see the start battling and competing and knowing what lies ahead, this great journey they’re on, and we’re trying to steward them through it. It’s really exciting. Fun to be back.
On Nate Boyer: "It’s hard to grasp for us to understand what he’s gone through and what he’s endured and the mentality it’s taken to accomplish the things he’s accomplished. And the guys he’s been with, too. It’s not just Nate. All the guys he’s shared his time with fighting for our country and all. He’s an amazing man. We’re thrilled to have him. He snaps the ball pretty sweet, too. He had good first day for us."
Will Boyer talk to the team? "We’ll see."
On Frank Clark today: "Everybody is scrambling out here. I heard he felt a little cramping. It’s a big day for these guys, first time out, there’s a lot of expectations, and often it can catch up with the guys, their nerves and all that. But he made it through and worked hard and had a couple of really nice plays out there. He showed some of the spark we hope to see in the pass rush. A lot of guys did some good things today. I thought Tyler was all over the field catching balls and making plays. He caught the ball really well in the opportunity in the kick return stuff. But there’s a lot of guys that did good stuff.
Probably the most exciting area is to watch what Tom’s doing with his three young linemen. He’s like a little kid in a candy store. He’s so excited about this challenge of bringing these guys along and the transition for Sokoli and knowing this is a big deal for our football team to add the competition and support for the offensive line play. So he’s having a blast."
What are the Seahawks doing to support Frank Clark? "Right now, it’s minicamp time. We’ve got him with us around the clock. We want to continue to support whatever is necessary for him. That’s if there’s some counseling efforts that he’s been involved with, we’re preparing to do that. Like he said, we’re going to support him in the ways that he needs as we learn more about him and uncover what’s really important. All of our young guys need a lot of help. Our program, you wonder sometimes why we are here and why we did it. We are really a relationship-based program. We care about these guys. We know that by doing that, by digging into who they are and what they’re all about and finding the ways to support them in the necessary ways to make them find their way to be their best, that’s what we’re doing. We’re doing the same thing with Frank we’d do with anybody else. He has some special things in his background, we’re going to attend to them, just like a lot of other guys. But we’re ready, whatever we have to do formally, we’ll do and we’ll figure that out as we go."
On Clark’s background and Carroll’s familiary with Los Angeles: “Well it’s hard for you guys to understand what Baldwin Village is like growing up It’s a difficult area. It’s an historically challenging area and I’ve been in that area a lot and just knowing that it got to the point where his mother had to get him out of there and had to move him out he was really the most difficult end of it. His story is not the only story. There are a lot of kids growing up who have had the same challenges. Fortunately his mom figured out a way to put him in a position where he could grow and prosper in the Glenville area (of Cleveland) with coach (Ted) Ginn at the high school there who I have known in recruiting over the years. He is a tremendous mentor and along with Frank’s family helped him formulate how to get his act together as a young man growing up. He was a heralded guy in Michigan in terms of his personality and character and work ethic and that kind of stuff. They really supported him and we picked up on that. And I think you just saw (in his interview) he’s a very impressive young man. So we hope to build on that and see if all of those background stories can really be the pillars and make him the great person he can become as he grows up. And I think I also heard him say he’s a young man. He knows that he’s got a lot of growing up to do and we are going to help him through that.’’
Is there has been anything written or said about what the Seahawks did to investigate Clark the last week that he would like to correct?: “I think what is important for us to extend is that we really care about this process. We really care about the people that we deal with. We are going to go as far as we need to go to find out what the story is all about. And I think that’s what we did right from the early signals. The first thing, like John has said, if a guy has had a troubled background, you are looking for reasons to take him off the board. And we did that and we went through the process and we found out what kind of kid this guy is and what happened through the process that he has been through, and we uncovered that we had a young man that deserves an opportunity and I think he will continue to show you why and we will support him through that. But he’s got a great opportunity and I think he is going to take full advantage of it and do the right thing And I think he is going to be an asset and a positive and a plus to us as we watch him develop.’’
On what they can learn about UDFAs during minicamp: “We get a really, really good first impression is what happens. It’s not real football. We are having to use your imagination out here to play with like it is football. But we can see the initial signals about how they learn and how they match up with our other guys – do they have the quickness and the kind of movement that we need. And sometimes we can really uncover an indication of the special qualities that a kid has for us. The competitiveness. The chip on the shoulder that we loook for. The drive to prove who he is. They start to show up, in three days we start to figure that out. How it’s going to wind up we don’t know but we can get an early indication.’’
On if there are any positions that are easier to evaluate here: “I think it’s easier to see the skill players. You can see their quickness and in and out of routes. The receivers and DBs, can see them move. It’s the guys in the trenches that it’s really difficult. And it’s really hard to tell linebackers because they cant fit up into runs and show you how they would normally make plays --- they just have to feel the plays coming at you. Obviously the O line and d line, you can’t get everything out of this. It’s all about the hard-nowest physical part of this and that’s not what these camps are about. It’s really about learning and getting a feel for what kind of movement player the athletes are.’’
Which positions are easier to evaluate when it's "not real football" like this? "I think it's easier to see the speed, the receivers and the DBs, to see them move. It's the guys in the trenches that's really difficult. It's tough to see linebackers because they can't get up in the run fits and make plays. They have to sort of feel the plays coming at them. Obviously, the O-line and D-line, you can't get everything out of them. The physical part of it, that's not what these camps are about. It's really about learning and getting a feel for these kind of movement players we have."
How do you envision Frank Clark's role on the field? "We are going to wait and see on that one, but we're starting him at defensive end and see where it goes from there. He weighed in at 270-something pounds. He's really fast. He's really strong. We have a couple of different ways we play our defensive ends, you know. We've got guys who play with a lot of movement. We've got guys who are big, long guys who play for us and we've got edge guys. He's a chance to be two of those three. He's never going to be a 300-pound guy who loads up. So we are going to covet the movement skills that he has and figure out the savvy, what he feels comfortable doing. Like always, we are looking for unique qualities that he has. He's explosive. He's fast. He's got some real nice stuff, so we'll see where that takes us. To me, there's no rush. We have time to figure that out."
Do you envision him playing inside on third downs like Michael Bennett does for you now? "I'm kind of curious to see what he looks like rushing over the guard on third-down situations, because he has really long arms that are an asset in the pass rush. And he will always be a really fast guy inside. We just need to see what kind of feel he has. That's all part of the process. That's not the defensive end, first- and second-down stuff we were talking about. That would be, can he contribute as a third-down specialist. If he could, he can play next to Mike -- we like to play him inside. That could be a really good combination. It's going to take us quite a while to figure that out."
When NFL says you can draft a guy like Clark given his history, how much responsibility does a team have to say, 'Maybe we shouldn't add this guy, or is you job just to get the best football player? "I think the team has all the responsibility. They've cleared a guy and he's eligible to get drafted, it's on us to figure that out. No, I think it's easy to say, 'No, let's just go right on to the next guy' right away. That's not how we do it. Every challenging opportunity we have to add personnel, you watch us. We'll go all the way to the end in the process. 'Is this a draft pick for us that can help our club?' And we'll exhaustingly go about it in that manner. That's just how we compete. Right or wrong, that's just the way we work. In this case, we stayed with it long enough so we figured it out, what we thought was the reason to give him the opportunity."
What is 34-year-old ex-U.S. Army Green Beret (and long-snapper in this minicamp as an undrafted free agent) Nate Boyer's football skill? "Well, he's very accurate snapping the football; he's got good skill there. I don't know where he got it. He got it somewhere along the way. We need to see if he can hold up blocking-wise. He's not a big man. We know that he's going to give you everything he's got, which is all we've ever asked of our guys. Now we've got to see how that translates. He's going to be in a big competition with 'Gresh.' We'll see how that goes. We do know he is a very accurate snapper. I don't have the times on him, but I am anxious to see what his times were."
What did you see from Tyler Lockett as a return man other than the obvious production you liked? “The obvious production is what we liked. He’s a big-play guy. He’s very good at handling the football. He’s a really good catcher. He fields the ball beautifully and he has big play ability. He has really good vision in open field situations, which returners need. You watch him set up blocks and set up the field through his movement and also use his speed. He’s a guy that knows he’s fast so he can set things up and outrun guys. There’s a lot of knack there. But I’ll go back: The most important thing about a returner, in particular a punt returner, is the attitude. He loves doing it, and it’s part of his makeup. You need that first. That’s a very, very challenging job, and it just doesn’t work out for guys who don’t have the right attitude. He’s got that.”
How many guys have you found have the ability physically but just don’t want to do it? “Most guys are like that. It’s a very rare situation to find a guy who really has the knack and he has the big-play ability — we’re hoping. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that it’s going to work out. It’s a very, very exciting aspect to add to our football team. It was not a very explosive part of our team last year and even in the last couple years. On kickoff returns we weren’t as good either. We think that’s an obvious area where we can get some more explosive plays and just add to our opportunities to score and I think that makes us that much harder to deal with.”
How valuable might Boyer’s leadership and life experience be? “I don’t know. I don’t know that. Depending on how it plays out, let’s just see how it goes. I don’t know Nate well enough yet to know how that will come to light. But I like to think that anybody’s background might be a benefit to us in some ways. When the timing is right and we’re able to mix it in with our regular routines, I’m going to try to call on it. I’m not going to treat Nate any differently than I treat anybody else.”
On the Ohio police report contradicting what Seahawks learned about Clark's incident:
"There is enough facts out there that have told the story after the initial report was in. I think there was enough stuff if you dig in and read all of the stuff, the story that's told by the process, the prosecution and all that was compelling in contrast to what you read. So I don't know what it says about police reports, but I think that was pretty ... it was very telling. That just added to the story. It was one part of it that we put together to make some sense of this."
Eric Pinkins at OLB?
"Yeah, we are trying him at outside 'backer to use his speed and see if he can't be a really special addition to that spot. You know, he's real fast. He's close to 230 pounds, almost 240 here a couple weeks back and as he trimmed up for camp, we just had the idea. We want to take a look and see what it looks like. So that's what we're going to ... we're going to throw him in here these first couple of weeks and into the OTAs season and see how far that goes."
What is it about culture that allows Carroll/Seahawks to take risks?
"I think we are committed to the individual guys. Let me back up. When I left SC to come here, one of the thoughts that I had, I wanted to see what it was like to go to the NFL and treat people like we had done there at school, where we had looked after them, we really cared about who they were, their background, where they were going, what we could do to support them and help them along the way and that's just what we've done here as well. We've given ourselves to helping each guy be the best he can possibly be. And in that, we have developed guys in our program that understand how we do it. We've pulled guys in the program who have a real sense and a savvy for taking care of people around them as well, and they've bought in to kind of the way we do it. And so it's not just the message that I would make or some of the coaches, it's the players as well. And I think it's the entire organization has realized that there's a unique quality about that, and that the people in your program when treated really well and you look for the unique qualities they have and you care for it and you accept the differences that they bring, there's extraordinary places you can go. That's why I think it's a good place, and we're willing to utilize that to our best. And so, it's worked out OK."
(on reaching certain guys and relation to Clark) "I don't know if it says anything about Frank necessarily but I do know there has been times in the past when I thought we could reach a guy, we could find a way to communicate with him, we could bring him to his best, and we just weren't able to do that. I always take that as a failing on my part. I don't ever want to give in that I couldn't figure out a way. But sometimes it happens and after a while you have to make a change and you have to move on. We kind of live in the world of optimism around here. We think that something good is going to happen and we're going to be able to take care of all situations that we deal with and pretty relentlessly go about our daily business with that thought in mind. Where others might see time to turn away, we're going to try and outlast the situation. We're going to hang. We're going to hang in there and keep fighting and clawing to see if we can't come up with a solution that makes some sense to help a guy find his best. And sometimes they just don't want to. They're just not ready for it and those are very disappointing challenges to me. I've seen guys find it and then lose it again too where we found a guy and recovered and found his way to be a really integral part and then he went back the other way again and those are hard losses for me. But I'm willing to wedge it and go after it and thankfully John sees things the same way. We want to give guys a chance and an opportunity to do great stuff and maybe it doesn't look the same to other people sometimes."
(Specific moment with Frank that made Seahawks realize he didn't do it and team should draft him?) "I don't think there was a specific... John worked at this really long and hard and his guys were really on it from the get-go and dug into it and the truth of who the young man is, we thought, came through very clearly quite a while back. We were tuned into him that this is a likely candidate for us if allstays the course and everything comes through like it might, and it did. The course of it showed this guy deserved an opportunity to play for the Seahawks."
(What are signs and reliable indicators for you?) "It's everything counts. Everything counts. We're going to watch every single thing. All of our guys do. How they act. How they don't act. How they react and how they don't react and all of that is so important to us. Who they're hanging with. How they're handling their business. Are they respectful about their timeframes? All of that stuff. We have to be great observers to do this the way we do it because we have to learn these guys. We have to learn who they are and what they're all about. I've championed that thought. Our coaches have been with us on this. We're pretty relentless about diving into these guys and trying to figure out a way to help them.