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How Frank Clark is a source of optimism during an unprecendented time

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On Wednesday. the star pass rusher talked about his preparation for the 2020 season

Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs continue to go through their virtual offseason program in preparation to defend their Super Bowl title. But according to Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark, even while his team is at the top of the football world, an archrival still found a way to take a jab at its championship celebration.

“I was actually just talking to one of my tight friends, [Denver Broncos defensive end] Von Miller, about it,” Clark recalled during his press conference on Thursday. “He actually called me with sympathy. He was like, ‘Yo bro, I was just thinking about it, that year around this time, I remember winning the Super Bowl with the Broncos, we were just celebrating, having fun, enjoying ourselves, guys getting all these endorsements.’”

One word was all Clark could muster in response to Miller’s boast. “Yeah,” he said with a laugh.

The unprecedented NFL offseason has disrupted players and coaches from their regular routine. Instead of being in a facility with the rest of the team, each individual is basically on their own, holding themselves accountable for studying and working out. But rather than focusing on the negatives, Clark just looks at it as a different kind of challenge.

“I’m ready to play football. I’m ready to get back to it — as soon as they give us the green light,” Clark declared. “But until then, all we can do is keep working out, staying focused. We all got our playbooks and our iPads — staying focused. It’s the mental part — they’re challenging our mental more than our physical right now.

Divisional Round - Houston Texans v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

“It’s the times,” Clark added. “It shows you how quick things can change — and how much you should really appreciate life — and appreciate the good and the bad.”

A recently-acquired Chief has been through plenty of good and bad in his football career. Former Miami Dolphin (and Dallas Cowboys first-round pick) Taco Charlton was a teammate of Clark’s at the University of Michigan — and they have maintained a relationship since then.

“Me and him being close friends, we have a lot of talks and we talk about a lot of things,” Clark said. “[He’s] been my bro since Michigan days... He listens and he does great things. I’m just excited, man. I’m excited to see what he’s going to do. Like I said, I want to turn him into a legend. First, just show him my work ethic — show him how we do things with the Chiefs. There’s a certain standard that Coach Reid has us mounting to, there’s certain things you have to live up to here.”

Charlton was a highly sought-after defensive end prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft. But with only nine sacks to his name as he joins his third team in four seasons, the hype has worn off. Clark believes he was miscast in the roles he played in Miami and Dallas.

“I feel like at some points in his career he wasn’t put in the best position,” Clark explained. “He can be aggressive. He can do his job. But the finesse part of his game — which is a lot of his strengths — and his size, he hasn’t really been able to display it like he wants to.”

Los Angeles Chargers v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

While Clark is understandably excited to play with a close friend, he wasn’t shy about his feelings on most of the team returning, either.

“When you get a chance to get your guys back — the core of the team — that’s dope,” Clark said. “The one thing you always want to see is your boys — the same team you went through it with. Once you go through that [training] camp together, it’s like, ‘All right, we solid. We dogs’.... We all understand that we’ve been there — it ain’t like 50% of the team got shipped off... Everybody’s back; the foundation is back. We get to revisit it — have a short memory about it and then get back on the road.”

Clark has always set lofty personal goals for himself. So when asked about his performance in 2019, all he could say was, “I felt like it was all right.”

Yes... even after winning a Super Bowl, Clark didn’t seem overwhelmingly excited about how he performed throughout 2019. He has bigger aspirations.

“My goal has been to break the sack record. I’ve been telling myself I want to break the sack record for the last two years,” Clark admitted. “It’s certain things like that are always going to be my goal. Setting the single-season forced fumble record — stuff like that. You have goals — like winning five Super Bowls. You have to set your goals high. What else are you working for?”

Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

It’s not just the on-field achievements that make Clark an impressive human being. Clark spoke about his desire to help Skid Row, a neighborhood in Los Angeles, California in which he spent a large portion of his life. He has consistently volunteered his time to the area during his offseasons — but after waking up on Easter, he felt like doing even more. He delivered 55 pizzas — a familiar number — to a cause that hits him close to home.

“I woke up with it in my heart. I didn’t plan on doing it... I feel like I’m more in touch with them than the average person. Being down there and spending time down there, I know the streets. I know the back streets. I know the alleys.”

As easy as it is to be pessimistic during these unprecedented times, Clark embodies optimism as he looks to the year ahead.

“I feel like that’s what 2020 has in store — that ‘What’s next?’” he said. “‘What you want to do next, Frank?’ It’s like, I want to start my clothing line, I want to win more Super Bowls, I want to help my younger guys — I want to bring the young guys along.”

In a locker room full of natural-born leaders, Clark stands out as one of the most genuine — and relatable.