CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. — At the tender age of five, Brendon Clark was a ball boy for the Manchester Lancers and head football coach Tom Hall. Fast forward 12 years, Clark is living out his childhood dream as the starting quarterback for the varsity football team.
It’s something that Clark wasn’t always sure he could accomplish.
“It’s kind of weird because Coach Hall would tell me that I’d start here one day, but I didn’t believe it.”
Hall said he saw the signs of greatness in Clark over a decade ago.
“It was funny because he would stand on the sideline and throw the ball all the way out to the middle of the field with the officials,” said Hall. “They would be like ‘who’s this kid?’”
Clark grew up around high school football and the Manchester Lancers.
“You can kind of say he was bred to be a Lancer and I’m glad he was,” said Hall.
In fact, Clark became the starting quarterback of the varsity football team as a high school freshman, something that is very rare for a 15-year-old.
“It felt good, it definitely took a lot of work that’s for sure,” Clark said. “You just kind of take what you can get and not really try to force anything.”
Hall said Clark proved he was ready to lead the team.
“A leader is the first thing that pops into my mind. High character, high moral standard kid, he’s passionate,” Hall said. “He comes from a great family, all the intangibles that you look for in your quarterback, he holds.”
As a freshman, Clark was one of the statistical leaders in the region before a torn ACL ended his season after four games.
Over the next 10 months, Clark worked tirelessly to get back to full health and prepare for the 2016 football season.
“It was definitely tough because it was eight months rehab just to be able to play… I didn’t start doing quarterback stuff or really running until July. So I really only had a month to get ready for the season,” said Clark.
During that time, Clark said he learned a lot about himself.
“I’m tougher than I thought. I mean some days weren’t the best days, but you have to keep working through it,” he added.
And that’s what he did with the help of his family, coaching staff, and teammates.
Despite limited mobility at the start of the 2016 season, Clark passed for 2,141 yards and 16 touchdowns, leading the Lancers to an 11-2 record and the state quarterfinals for the first time.
Not only did Clark turn the heads of college scouts across the country, but Coach Hall as well.
“It was amazing. He did a great job,” said Hall. “Just his work ethic and his commitment to make himself better has been amazing to watch.”
“It was good. I mean we made it further than any other team, I think it just holds the standard a little bit higher for us this year to get to the championship game,” said Clark.
Now heading into his junior year, the 17-year-old student verbally committed to play college football at Wake Forest, despite increasing interest from schools across the country. Now listed at 6’2” and 210 pounds, 30 pounds heavier than last season, Clark is considered one of the fastest rising high school players in the class of 2019 and a 4-star recruit by Scout.com.
But Clark said there was something special about Wake Forest.
“I loved the atmosphere, the way the coaching staff works with their players, the campus, what they have to offer academically, and their football as well.”
Specifically, it was the university’s health and exercise science program that really caught Clark’s attention.
“He actually visited Wake three different times, two of those times he visited; he didn’t spend any time with football,” said Hall. “He toured their medical facilities and medical school and he was sold.”
The Midlothian teen said science is his favorite subject and his goal is to be a physician assistant when he’s done with football. In addition, Clark is a member of Manchester’s Spanish Immersion program, where he will take three classes in Spanish this semester.
“Brendon is the epitome of a student-athlete,” said Hall. “For a kid to be that mature, and handle the pressures that he has, being a freshman starter, overcoming the injury, now with the recruiting and everything. I’m very proud of him.”
More than a decade after throwing footballs on the sidelines as a ball boy, Brendon Clark is hoping to lead the Lancers to something they’ve never accomplished, a Class 6A State Championship.
As for the future, Clark said his dream is to play in the NFL one day, something Hall believes is very possible if he continues to work hard.
“I think the sky is the limit for him,” said Hall. “Just from what he’s grown from his freshman year to now. His maturity level as a student, as a student of the game, getting stronger, getting faster, he has all the intangibles that’s what you want as your leader.”
If you know a local high school football player with an interesting story email Vernon Freeman Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.