Former Forest Park athlete Jamarco Clark (7) is now a junior at Iowa Wesleyan where he's starting to make a favorable impression on a new coaching staff.
He was the starting tight end and the girl’s basketball team manager.
He was the starting goalie and the sack specialist.
He made game-altering saves and washed football jerseys with coaches after practice.
Jamarco Clark came to Forest Park High School the summer before his junior year and left two years later for Iowa Wesleyan with an undeniable mark on the Panthers community.
“You rarely coach a guy like Jamarco,” said Rod Perrymond, head football coach at Forest Park from 2008-09.
Now going into his junior year at Iowa Wesleyan, Clark is starting to make his mark in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, as the Tigers season-opener against William Penn approaches August 25.
“Spring went pretty good,” Clark said, “so I’m expecting big things to happen this fall.”
Nothing for Clark has remained constant since he left Pensacola, Fla., for Forest Park.
He left a football-rich part of Florida for a Panthers program mired in losing and anonymity but found a way to stand out. While college recruiters fawned over North Clayton defensive end Emmanuel Dieke and linebacker Clarence Jackson, Clark quietly had back-to-back seasons with double-digit sacks. Clark was the only senior at Forest Park on National Signing Day to sign a scholarship.
But there was little time to dwell on it; there was soccer season. Clark was the starting goalie for a team that finished runner-up and won a state playoff game.
And Clark had had no winter break from athletics. He was the team manager for the girl’s basketball team, which advanced to the Class AAAA semifinals at the Gwinnett Center that year.
It was an unlikely schedule for arguably the school’s top football player, but one Clark relished.
“It wasn’t a big deal,” Clark said. “It was just my way of showing appreciation to the other sports for supporting my in soccer and football.”
“Jamarco, he’s a very special player,” Perrymond said. “He’s one of the guys who showed up and worked hard. There were several opportunities where he could’ve quit because of some of the things we were going through.
“He was a coach’s guy. He would help us wash uniforms and all kind of stuff. It’s hard to find those types of kids.”
Iowa Wesleyan found one, and put him to use right away. He appeared in eight games as a freshman on special teams and defense, collecting seven tackles, one tackle for loss and one sack.
Clark started to have a real impact last season at outside linebacker, making 28 tackles — including a team-high seven against Saint Francis — 3.5 tackles for loss, two pass break-ups and 1/2 sacks.
“I was eager to get in and play,” Clark said. “So when I got here in Iowa during camp I had a non-stop motor going.”
This season has brought more transition.
First from the school, which is making the leap from NAIA to Division III.
Then from the coach, Kent Anderson, who left to take another head coaching position.
More from the new coach, Tom Parkevich, who asked Clark to move to tight end.
Even more from Clark’s body, when he found out his heart was beating irregularly and required surgery. Clark had the surgery last November and was cleared to play football again this past July.
Clark said it’s made for a whirlwind college experience so far.
“Balancing the overall act of being a student-athlete, it can be difficult at times,” Clark said. “But only the strong survive.”
More transition is inevitably ahead for Clark, and plenty of decisions. Should he add psychology to his educational foundations major? Should he use connections from Anderson his former coach, the winningest coach in German Football League history, to play professionally overseas?
Clark said those are questions to be answered later.
For now, he’s preparing for the Tigers season, content to enjoy the college football life that so many of his teammates never got to experience.
“So far,” Clark said, “it’s been everything I dreamed it to be.”