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Never more at ease: Clark thrives in solitude or in Big 12's noisiest stadiums

Clark has mastered the art of solitude

Posted: August 29, 2014 - 11:16pm  |  Updated: August 30, 2014 - 12:10am
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Texas Tech's Le'Raven Clark is one of the top lineman in the country. (FILE)  Stephen Spillman / AJ Media
Stephen Spillman / AJ Media
Texas Tech's Le'Raven Clark is one of the top lineman in the country. (FILE)
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When the Texas Tech football team had the intrasquad scrimmage it calls “Friday Night Lights” this spring, Le’Raven Clark was nearly 300 miles away.

The Red Raiders’ All-Big 12 left tackle had an excused absence to join his natural resource management class on a weekend field trip to Junction. They did a freshwater bio assessment on the San Gabriel River, performing tasks such as habitat density measurements, determining what species were present and identifying fish.

That sort of getaway is right up Clark’s alley — or stream.

He feels at home blocking Big 12 pass rushers in front of 60,000 or more people or fishing and hunting by himself.

“I don’t judge it off my success too much,” Clark said recently. “I just like being out there in the woods or on the water or whatever it is, more so spending time to myself.”

Whether he goes home with a barrel of fish or emptyhanded, he’s gotten a lot of practice. The 6-foot-6, 310-pound junior from Rockdale has been fishing and hunting for as long as he can remember, starting when he hooked his first perch with what he described as “a little Mickey Mouse fishing pole.”

“My dad and mom took me on my first fishing trip when I was probably like 2 or 3 and caught my first fish,” Clark said. “I can still remember that moment vividly.

“There’s a bunch of lakes and streams around there, places to go fishing. There’s more water over in Central Texas than there is out here.”

And Clark has learned to make the most of it.

He’s mastered the art of solitude.

“I’m not a party guy or anything like that,” he said. “I’m not into that scene too much. That (being outdoors) is what I do for my entertainment.”

One of the traits required of a successful outdoorsman — being totally quiet — comes naturally to Clark. Or at least, it did.

Tech teammates and coaches have noticed a change in recent months. The big blocker who spoke little during the first three years of his Tech career, has come out of his shell, revealing a fun-loving personality.

“It’s been a joy,” line coach Lee Hays said. “He finally opened up and says more than two words now. Now we communicate a lot better. Now he’s communicating too much.”

Hays prefers to keep his linemen’s meeting room light and calls Clark “one of the biggest pranksters of all of them.”

There seems to be a consensus on that.

“Off the field, he’s goofy as can be,” center Jared Kaster said. “He’s opened up. That’s for sure.”

That doesn’t mean Clark is any less serious about his duties protecting Davis Webb. Clark’s on track to graduate in May, if not sooner, and Hays wouldn’t be surprised if he leaves early for the NFL.

“He knows where he’s going to be later in the future,” Kaster said. “Some guys, they see that down the road and think, ‘I’ve got it made.’ It’s the total opposite for him. He’s out there pushing us, pushing me. He’s wanting to be the best he can be, not for himself, but for the team.”

Tech experimented in August with newcomer Dominique Robertson at left tackle and Clark at right guard, the position he played two years ago. Last week, coaches reverted to the safer alignment with Clark at left tackle.

Being asked to move to right guard from the more glamorous left tackle apparently didn’t faze Clark.

“I’m not an ego guy at all,” he said. “Whatever coach wants me to do is what I’m going to do.”

Indeed, if he has an ego, it might have as much to do with his knowledge of wildlife than his insight into hard-charging defensive ends.

When not fishing, Clark’s apt to be hunting hogs or squirrels, the latter one of his favorite challenges.

“Squirrels are pretty smart animals, contrary to what people think, when you’re hunting them,” Clark said. “I think city squirrels aren’t very smart, but in the country, those squirrels are pretty smart and they’re tougher to kill.

“They’re pretty elusive, especially if you catch one in a tall tree. They’ll go up and lay flat on a big limb and you’ll never find ’em.”

So there’s one creature that can get the better of Clark.

don.williams@lubbockonline.com

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