While I've had the pleasure of seeing many of the top athletes in the country over the past five years while working for MaxPreps, including the likes of Matt Barkley, Taylor Martinez and Vontaze Burfict, I was most impressed with a Northern Section player I saw for the first time over 20 years ago. His name was Willie Clark.
Clark was a junior who played for the Wheatland (Calif.)
Pirates. Located near Beale Air Force Base, Wheatland often had a new lineup of talent each year because of the transfer of military personel to and from the base.
Clark's family had been stationed in Europe but he arrived in time for the 1988 season. He played flyback in Wheatland's fly offense, and boy could he fly. In the game I saw, which was against Orland (Calif.), Clark carried the ball only about four times, but he scored a couple of touchdowns and had several long runs. That year, Clark went on to set the state record for average yards per carry with more than 17 yards per attempt.
Clark's runs were breathtaking because of his speed. He also tended to reverse course, when the hole in front of him was shut off and he would outsprint the defenders around the opposite side for a long gain.
Clark went on to have a spectacular senior season in which he earned all-state honors as a defensive back. He was also a fantastic sprinter and finished second behind Napolean Kaufman of Lompoc (and later the Oakland Raiders) in the 100 meters at the state meet. Clark was so dominant in the sprints in the Northern Section that he won the 200 meters without even taking off his sweats.
A scholarship to Notre Dame followed and he was a star for the Fighting Irish in the Orange Bowl during his freshman season. He later played running back for Notre Dame, but he played several years in the NFL as a defensive back for the San Diego Chargers (for whom he played against the 49ers in the Super Bowl) and the Philadelphia Eagles.Kevin Askeland began writing in 1982 at the age of 16 for the Orland Press-Register. He worked for Tri-County Newspapers for more than 20 years and has worked for MaxPreps over the