Ex-Husker running back Clark dies

2013-02-17T20:43:00Z 2013-02-19T01:13:06Z Ex-Husker running back Clark diesBy STEVEN M. SIPPLE / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

Even after his signature performance as a Nebraska football player, Ken Clark had little to say.

He was an exceptionally productive Husker I-back from 1987-89, one of the best in program history and perhaps the most underrated -- probably because of his quiet demeanor.

Clark, an Omaha native, died Saturday. A cousin, Stephanie Clark of Omaha, confirmed the death, telling The Associated Press that he died of a massive heart attack in Minneapolis. He was 46.

Former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne, reached Sunday night, declined to comment, saying he first wanted to speak to Clark's family.

Clark's career highlight occurred in October 1988, when he rushed for 256 yards and three touchdowns in a home triumph against Oklahoma State, which featured Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders.

After the game, the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Clark was interviewed briefly in the locker room by the Husker football radio network. Clark never made it to the team's post-game media area, where dozens of reporters waited for him, according to the Journal Star.

Tony Davis, another rugged ex-Nebraska running back (1973-75), remembers Clark as a man of few words, and as an excellent player.

"Listen, dude, he was the deal, make no mistake about it," Davis said Sunday. "He may be the most underrated I-back in Nebraska history. He would produce and produce and produce. He was a producing machine. I mean, he'd always pick up third-and-4s -- stuff like that.

"He was a heck of a player. He was tough. He was smart. He knew the game."

Clark's three-year rushing total of 3,037 yards ranks sixth on the Nebraska career chart. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry during that period while scoring 29 touchdowns.

A graduate of Omaha Bryan High School, Clark was a two-time All-Big Eight selection, rushing for 1,497 yards as a junior and 1,196 as a senior. He was an eighth-round pick of the NFL Indianapolis Colts.

He racked up his yards despite several injuries.

"We never know how his knee, his toe or something else is going to slow him," Osborne told the Journal Star in December 1989. "It's hard to figure how good he'd be if he were healthy. But he plays very well even when he isn't 100 percent."

Clark played extraordinarily well that day in 1988 against Oklahoma State. He racked up his 256 yards on 27 carries before being replaced by Tyreese Knox after the first series of the fourth quarter.

"I knew if we gave him the ball enough, he'd go crazy," Nebraska safety Tim Jackson said at the time. "I was waiting for this day to come."

According to the 1989 Nebraska football media guide -- which featured Clark on the cover -- he turned down scholarship offers from Iowa, Iowa State and Kansas State.

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.

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