To succeed as a lineman in football, you need to be quick on your feet. The same goes for a successful shot-putter in track and field.
A lineman needs good technique; so does a shot-putter.
A lineman uses explosive movements; so does a shot-putter.
With those similarities -- not to mention the requirement of strength and size -- it is little wonder that University of Iowa senior Drew Clark made a successful transition from Hawkeye offensive guard in the fall to Hawkeye thrower in the winter and spring.
Coming out of Marion (Iowa) High School as a two-time elite all-state football player, as well as a state and Drake Relays champion in the shot put, led to plenty of college options for Clark. At 6-foot-4, 288 pounds, he fit the prototype of either a Division I lineman or a Division I thrower.
Turns out, he was both.
Clark accepted a scholarship to play for head coach Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeye football program, where his uncle, Craig Clark, played tight end from 1984-87. Clark sat out the 2009 season as a redshirt and played sparingly during Iowa's 45-0 win against Ball State in 2010. The next season he saw action in an opening 34-7 win over Tennessee Tech, marking the final time he played in a game.
"Drew is an exceptional young man, and he did a phenomenal job for us," Ferentz said. "One thing about football, you give out 85 scholarships -- do the math -- not everybody is going to start. It didn't work out for Drew that way, but he did everything you would ask any player to do."
Clark spent his final days of football looking up the depth chart at Matt Tobin and Conor Boffeli.
"I tried to be a team guy and do everything right," Clark said. "I made a lot of good friendships during football."
He lives with football players Brett Van Sloten and Casey Kreiter.
Unlike many college students, Clark has his immediate future figured out. Once he receives a degree in mechanical engineering, Clark is off to the Quad Cites to work for John Deere as a manufacturing engineer. But he wanted something to occupy his time while the seconds ticked down toward commencement.
"My girlfriend, Amanda Stahle, throws the javelin and the discus for (the University of Iowa track and field team)," Clark said. "Once I decided I wanted to move on from football, I ended up calling coach (Scott) Cappos and asking if I could give it a try. He said yes, he would like to have me."
Cappos was aware of Clark's ability from his prep days when he won two Drake Relays shot put championships, a Class 3A discus title and a Class 3A shot put crown. Clark's winning effort as a senior in 2009 was 64-feet-7 ¾ -- the fifth-farthest throw in Iowa history -- and put him among the top 10 throwers in the country.
That was with a 12-pound shot; the weight of a shot put in college is 16 pounds. Clark's throwing technique was rusty after spending four years trying to perfect blocking technique.
"Training for football and training to be a track and field athlete are two totally different things," Cappos said. "Drew started at a very low level and slowly increased through the summer and fall. I warned him that it is going to take six to eight months to get to where you want to be."
Cappos hammered home a message to Clark that he could succeed as a shot-putter in college. Clark was reminded how much work it would take to achieve at the level he wanted; it would not happen overnight.
"He was persistent and worked hard over the course of several months to get to where he became a pretty good thrower," Cappos said. "Now he is stepping up to where we think he can do some things to really help our program succeed this year."
In his first appearance in a competitive collegiate shot put ring, Clark won the University of Iowa Intrasquad meet with a throw of 55-8 ¼. He followed that with a fourth-place finish at the Big 4 Duals (55-3) and a fifth-place effort at the Jack Johnson Classic in Minneapolis (56-1). The next two times out -- at Iowa State's Bill Bergen Invitational and at Nebraska's Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational -- he sat 11th after three preliminary throws and missed making one of the nine finals spots. On Feb. 14, he placed 14th at the Iowa State Classic.
"I had a lot of bad habits in high school and now I got back into throwing, so I'm trying to get rid of those," Clark said. "As far as meets go, I just like to go out there and have fun, so whatever happens, happens."
Cappos sees Clark's improvement and envisions a postseason point-scorer.
"He had a breakout meet at the intrasquad where he stepped up his performance and showed his competitive nature," Cappos said. "Ever since then he has been getting better and better to the point where we believe he has a chance to be a Big Ten scorer, and by the end of outdoor season, maybe a national-level qualifier."
Clark and the Hawkeyes will host the Iowa Invitational on Friday, beginning at 4 p.m. (CT) in the UI Recreation Building. After that, all that remains of the indoor season is the Big Ten Championships (Feb. 28-March 1) and the NCAA Championships (March 14-15).