Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark is a 23-year old with limitless potential. He brings to the table the kind of combination platter — quickness, strength, attitude — that separates future All-Pros from those pros who are merely competent.
Aside from his ability to stalk quarterbacks, there’s something else about Clark that’s worthy of noting:
He reminds me how naive I am.
When Seattle took Clark in the second round of the 2015 draft, I wasn’t on board with the selection. The former Michigan star had been dismissed from the Wolverines program after he was arrested for beating up his girlfriend. He pleaded guilty to the less serious crime of disorderly conduct, the justice system’s way of applying soap to erase spray-painted graffiti.
Seahawks general manager John Schneider, insisting the team conducted a thorough investigation of Clark, concluded the “incident” to be a one-time mistake that tarnished the public’s perception of an otherwise solid citizen.
I remained wary, but at some point you’ve got to trust the judgment of a GM whose teams annually compete deep into the playoffs. Move on, I told myself. Nobody is perfect in this mixed-up world.
Clark has made the most of the lifeline offered by the Seahawks, excelling on the field — he finished 2016 with 10 sacks and two forced fumbles — while keeping his off-the-field lifestyle in a key of low.
And then, at 5:52 this past Tuesday afternoon, Clark undid everything he accomplished to repair his reputation. When Bleacher Report’s Natalie Weiner linked her update on the life and times of Greg Hardy — also accused of domestic violence — with a 2015 story she wrote about Clark, he reacted with a rage that may have set a social-media record for sexism.
“People like you don’t have long careers in your field,” Clark posted on Twitter. “I have a job for you cleaning my fish tank when that lil job is ova.”
Clark apologized, sort of, in a subsequent tweet, and then gave a more comprehensive expression of his regrets.
“I understand the seriousness of this subject,” Clark wrote on Wednesday. “I want to apologize to Natalie Weiner for letting my emotions get the best of me about comments made towards my personal life and family. I have worked hard over the last two years to do right, not only for myself, but for my family as well. I will continue on this path, on and off the field.”
These words of contrition were delivered after the Seahawks met with Clark at team headquarters, so excuse me if I’m cynical about the sincerity of his vow “to do right.”
I don’t know Clark or, for that matter, any of the athletes I occasionally talk to as a sports reporter. I’d like to think they’re good guys who walk into a convenience store and keep the door open for the enfeebled customer behind them. I’d like to think they say “please” and “thank you,” leave generous tips at restaurants, and exchange greetings with a smile and firm handshake.
But I don’t know, and I never will.
What I know is this: Thanks to Twitter, Clark needed only a minute to reveal himself as a misogynistic creep the other day.
I’d come to accept the notion he’d put his misogynistic-creep past behind him, that his grasp at a second chance fulfilled any definition of a Seahawks success story.
What a joke.
This might sound strange, but I’m actually grateful Clark deceived me. A kid messes up in college, gets thrown off the team, leaves red flags all over the place, and then turns responsible. It’s all good, right? Everybody lives happily ever after.
I thought so, until Frank Clark reminded me of the perils behind blind faith.
I won't get fooled again.
John McGrath: @TNTMcGrath