After knee injury, Greensburg Salem senior Kenny Clark takes on new 'coaching' role
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Sometimes life doesn't seem fair. Ask Greensburg Salem senior Kenny Clark.
The passionate leader of the Golden Lions football team saw his season and possibly his career end before it got started.
The tight end/linebacker sustained his second serious knee injury Aug. 30 in the second half of Greensburg Salem's 20-14 victory over Knoch.
Clark sustained tears in the posterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament, anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his right knee. He had emergency surgery Sept. 6, and Greensburg Salem coach Dave Keefer said the damage was more severe than first thought. He'll need additional surgery to repair the knee properly.
Clark hasn't even been cleared to return to school yet.
“I'll never forget the look on his face when we reached him,” Keefer said. “He was so disappointed, and we were disappointed for him. He was having an awesome game, and he made a number of impact plays.”
Before the injury, Clark had three sacks, several tackles for losses and was leading the team in tackles. He was doing exactly what Keefer expected: making plays and leading the team.
Clark, while blocking on a running play, got caught in a pile of players, and someone rolled up his leg.
“I knew exactly what happened,” Clark said. “I recognized the pain because I injured my left knee as a sophomore. I couldn't believe it happened to me again.”
During his freshman year, Clark also sustained a dislocated elbow that required screws and plates to heal.
But Clark isn't asking “Why me?”
“Things happen,” Clark said. “This won't bring me down. It's going to make me a better and stronger person. I'm going to move forward and be a better person.”
Keefer said Clark will be difficult to replace.
“I've been around a lot of great people, not only coaches and players,” Keefer said. “Kenny reminds me of one of my (Indiana, Pa.) teammates, Je'Mone Smith, because of his attitude, demeanor and integrity as a person. Kenny shows so much character off the field and in the classroom.”
The day Clark had his surgery, Keefer called Clark, “Coach Clark.”
“I may have lost a great player but gained a coach,” Keefer said. “When we can get him back in school, our plan is to get him in the press box with the coaches.
“Kenny has great eyes, and he understands what we want to do. He is passionate about the game.”
Clark said he stays busy at home by watching film of upcoming opponents and the team's most recent game. He relays to the coaches what he sees, and he tries to pick out things to help his teammates.
“I like helping my team any way I can,” Clark said.
Keefer said Clark wasn't 100 percent his junior year, but he still led the team in tackles. The first-year coach was counting on a big season from Clark.
“Kenny is more than just a great football player, he's a leader in the school,” Keefer said.
“He's a model student,” Greensburg Salem principal David Zilli added. “They don't come any better than Kenny. He's a true leader, and everyone looks up to him.”
Clark is involved in numerous other activities at the high school, including National Honor Society, History Club and Christian Club.
He also helped the school's mock trial team finish second in the state and was voted the best lawyer of the competition as a junior.
But one of the most significant things he's involved in is being a voting member of the Greensburg Salem Education Foundation. This board comprises school administrators, teachers, parents, community members and students.
Through donations and fundraising events, the board hopes to generate resources to help students in the classroom.
“If we can help just one student, we've been successful,” Clark said. “We want to see everyone be successful in the school district.”
Greensburg Salem defensive coordinator Adam Jones said Clark takes charge in anything he does.
Clark actually missed the first week of training camp so he could be honored at the Coca-Cola Pay It Forward program in Chicago. There, he worked with rapper/actor Common and shadowed CEOs from different corporations.
“I learned a lot during the week,” Clark said. “I was able to listen to negotiations and learn different things that I hope I will be able to use.
“My goal is to become an orthopedic surgeon, and I want to someday be able to give back to the community with my own foundation.”
Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.
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