Madisonville-North Hopkins alum Jeremy Clark is going to the NFL.
The fifth-year senior cornerback from the University of Michigan – who graduated from North in 2012 – saw his dreams of a life in professional football become a reality on Saturday, as he was selected by the New York Jets with the 13th pick of the sixth round, 197th overall.
Clark’s selection marks the first time a former Maroon has been drafted to the NFL since University of Kentucky running back Alfred “Sonny” Collins was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the second round in 1976.
“It’s a great honor for our football program,” said North football coach Jay Burgett, who was Clark’s defensive back coach his sophomore year and his defensive coordinator his junior and senior year. “I was able to watch him develop, not only as an athlete but also as an individual. He was one of the best recruits to ever come out of Madisonville-North Hopkins.”
Clark played safety during his first two seasons with the Wolverines, but transitioned to cornerback as a junior. The move proved to be a big success, as Clark had his best season in 2015: He played in 13 games (seven starts) and recorded 21 tackles, three pass breakups and a team-leading three interceptions, while also helping the team to its first bowl victory since 2012 at the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl.
He was coming into his own as a senior last year, having earned a spot as an all-day starter at cornerback, when he suffered a torn ACL in a game against Penn State on Sept. 24, bringing his season to an end just four games in. Clark appealed to the NCAA for a sixth season of eligibility, but was denied.
He attended the NFL combine in February, but was unable to do most of the workouts, as he was still recovering from his ACL reconstructive surgery. He was still able to do 20 bench press reps of 225 pounds, third among cornerbacks. Additionally, at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, Clark was the tallest and heaviest corner available in this year’s draft, a factor that played no small part in his ultimate selection.
“His measurables are what got him into the draft, regardless of the ACL tear that he suffered,” Burgett said.
Clark was the 11th player from Michigan selected in this year’s draft, a new school record, and the third defensive back selected by the Jets up to that point (along with LSU safety Jamal Adams and Florida safety Marcus Maye). He was the first of two corners the Jets took on Saturday, as they selected Ole Miss corner Derrick Jones seven picks later.
Clark goes to a Jets team that ranked 17th in pass defense last season (243.6 yards allowed per game) and just parted ways with longtime shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis. With Revis gone, the team’s projected starters on the corners for this year are Buster Skrine, the team’s other starter from last season, and Morris Claiborne, a free agent signee and former first-round pick who played for the Dallas Cowboys the past five seasons.
Burgett said the achievements of Clark, along with other North alums like Navy linebacker Josiah Powell and Western Kentucky lineman Cullen Reynolds, show just what kind of potential players have when they come to the North program.
“Jeremy Clark is a player that represented our program with class and dignity,” Burgett said. “Did the job in the classroom as well as on the field, and that transitions to his draft pick.
“I believe as we continue, regardless of the records we’ve had the last couple years, that (the program) will continue to progress the way we need it to. Regardless of the year, regardless of the record, we send kids to college, and now it’s proven that we send kids to the NFL.”