By John Kovach
BOARDMAN — Can senior quarterback Daryll Clark, an Ursuline High graduate, lead the Penn State football team to another Big Ten Conference football championship and Rose Bowl Berth in 2009?
And can Clark win the Heisman Award during the 44th season that Joe Paterno will be coaching the Nittany Lions this coming season?
“ I am absolutely confident that [we] can do well again next season. The workouts have been going really well. I will be a captain along with linebacker Sean Lee,” said Clark, who was a special guest and honored Thursday night at the annual United Way “Champions Among Us” dinner at Mr. Anthony’s.
But he said there will be challenges. “We have lost a lot of veteran receivers but we still have some [receivers] coming back and also we will have some freshmen.”
Clark, who has been listed No. 18 among the top 25 Heisman Award candidates for 2009 by NationalChamps.net, said that he is honored to be a United Way guest.
“It means a whole lot to me to come back as a guest of United Way. It is a real honor. United Way means a lot to the city of Youngstown. It is a very successful program and it means a lot to the community,” said Clark, who led Penn State to an 11-2 record last year, Big Ten title and berth in the Rose Bowl, where the Nittany Lions lost to USC, 38-24,
Clark, who also has been named the No. 1 returning quarterback in the Big Ten by Rivalry, Esq (www.rivalryesq.com) and to Athlon’s preseason All-Big Ten First Team, had a prolific 2008 campaign.
He finished last season with 192 completions in 321 attempts for 2,592 yards and 19 TDs with six interceptions.
Riding that momentum, he enters the 2009 campaign full of confidence and optimism.
Asked if he feels that he has a chance to win the Heisman Award, Clark said, “ I have a pretty good shot. I know it’s an honor to be mentioned. But first things first. The season has to go a certain way. We have to get some wins,” he emphasized.
Clark has been working out at Penn State and throwing passes to get ready for this coming season.
He already has graduated with a degree in telecommunications, but he still is attending school working on a second degree in sports journalism.
Regarding Paterno, who struggled to bounce back last year after being injured on the sidelines, Clark said that his coach is a tough cookie and an important person in his life.
“He is 82 years old but he still has a lot of fire in the furnace,” said Clark, noting that Paterno “has had such an impact on my life. I can see him now when he was riding a cart [after being injured] on the sidelines. I can’t wait for the first game against Akron Sept. 5.”
Clark tries to visit Ursuline whenever he gets home, and is hoping that he can develop some projects to benefit Ursuline High and the city.
“I have some projects in mind for the future but I don’t want to mention them now,” he said.