Robert Morris introduces new football coach Bernard Clark
New Robert Morris football coach Bernard Clark was a linebacker for the Bengals when Cincinnati visited Three Rivers Stadium to face the Steelers on Dec. 15, 1991. He vividly recalls a brief encounter with a Steelers legend.
"It was freezing cold, and Mean Joe Green walked up to me and said, 'You need to put something on that bald head,' " Clark said about the Hall of Famer who was the Steelers defensive line coach at the time. "That's probably the craziest memory I have from getting ready to play Pittsburgh."
Clark, introduced as RMU's football coach Wednesday, hopes to make more memories in the area as he tries to revive the Colonials.
RMU won six Northeast Conference titles under Joe Walton between 1996 and 2010. Since that last NEC title, the Colonials haven't had a winning record and over the past four seasons have gone 4-20 in conference games.
Clark, who won a pair of national titles as a linebacker for Jimmy Johnson at Miami, spent the past four seasons as an assistant at Albany under former Duquesne coach Greg Gattuso. For the past three seasons, Clark was the Great Danes' defensive coordinator and associate head coach.
Clark's defense at Albany ranked ninth in FCS this season, holding opponents to 282.1 yards per game.
Though his background is defense, Clark — an assistant under Dave Wannstedt at Pitt in 2010 — said his teams will be balanced.
"There are going to be times when we go fast-paced on offense," said Clark, who will turn 51 in January. "There will be times when we slow it down because the defense is getting tired. We're going to balance this whole thing out, and we're going to make sure our special teams are tied into that."
Bernard Clark opening remarks: pic.twitter.com/xp4sRRqTFh— Chuck Curti (@CCurti_Trib) December 20, 2017
In terms of recruiting, he still has connections in Florida that could lure athletes from the Sunshine State's deep talent pool. But Clark said while recruiting Florida is a definite possibility, he likes the toughness of players from the Pennsylvania and throughout the Northeast.
"I want to make sure we stay in the Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, New Jersey area," he said. "Florida's great, but when you're dealing with this (cold) weather, you want to stay with those (Northeast) guys more than anything else.
"No doubt you want to put some speed on your field, but we can find speed in New York and New Jersey also. Our main hub will be Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and New Jersey."
Wednesday's early football signing day activity was put on hold at Robert Morris while Clark began to immerse himself in his new role as quickly as possible.
He said his first order of business was to watch film of potential recruits, then watch game film from the past season to evaluate current players. Next, he will try to have his offensive and defensive coordinators in place along with an offensive line coach so they can begin their offseason regimen as soon as possible.
Clark used the term "whirlwind" to describe the events of the past two days. But with the long-awaited chance to run his own program, he is eager to get down to business.
"Excitement. Enthusiasm. Just ecstatic. I was holding back the tears more than anything," Clark said about getting the job. "When you do something that you really love and you put yourself in position where you can really develop young men ... it's an outstanding feeling."
Chuck Curti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @CCurti_Trib.