Dorshell Clark realized at an early age just how stubborn her son Deondre could be.
Beginning from the time he was born, 19 years ago, Deondre barged into the world nine weeks ahead of schedule, weighing 3 pounds, 7 ounces and with a bleak long-term prognosis.
“He’s a fighter,” Dorshell Clark said of the youngest of her five children. “They didn’t think he would make it, but he’s a fighter all the way.”
Deondre Clark’s grown up since then — the biggest of all his siblings — to 6-foot-2 and more than 240 pounds and developed into one of the nation’s top pass-rushing defensive ends with 61 career sacks at Oklahoma City’s Douglass High School.
Clark received more than 30 scholarship offers, committed more than a year ago to LSU, signed in February and reported in June the start of summer school and offseason workouts.
“I fell in love with the history of the D-ends,” Deondre said during media day Aug. 10. “Coach (Brick) Haley’s background and getting guys ready for the NFL was big and how he never lied to me throughout the process. A lot of coaches just told me what I wanted to hear, but he told me what was real.”
Although he never wavered from the time of his June 24, 2013, commitment until signing in February, there were some angst among LSU faithful who follow the recruiting game. They believed Clark would ultimately spurn the Tigers and remain in his home state and play for either Oklahoma or Oklahoma State.
The impetus for such a scenario began after January when it was learned Dorshell had a tumor on one of her breasts, reportedly sparking an insistence Deondre not venture off too far from home.
She gives a different account.
“It was our media that did that, that said I wanted him to stay home,” she said. “I had another son (Stevie) that stayed home for basketball, and it didn’t work. I hated it for him (Deondre), but I never shied away from him going to go where he wanted to go. I was ready for Dre to leave.”
Stevie Clark was a standout basketball player who signed with Oklahoma State, but his career in Stillwater lasted 16 games, cut short by a suspension and two arrests. He was dismissed from the program and has since enrolled at Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College.
Deondre said that while he understood his mother’s early desire for him to attend one of the state’s two Big 12 schools, there was never a directive or wedge driven between them over the matter.
“She wanted me to stay close to home, but I told her this would be the best fit for me — and over time, she adjusted and was happy for me,” Clark said. “All she wanted was the best for me, and this is what I wanted.”
Clark credited his official visit, which Dorshell attended, and the in-home visit conducted by LSU coach Les Miles and Haley as significant parts in the process that doused any of his mother’s lingering doubts.
A big snowstorm in the Oklahoma region blanketed Oklahoma City, cancelling classes and postponing a scheduled news conference on national signing day, which prompted a bit of apprehension among LSU recruiting zealots.
Douglass High remained closed for nearly a week until Clark was able to make it official — showing up in style, in a limousine rented by his mother — and declaring publically he would sign with LSU. He pulled off a gray hooded sweatshirt, revealing a white dress shirt and purple bow tie with tiny gold LSU logos — courtesy of his mom.
“During that period, and up until the day that I signed, I was getting calls from coaches,” Clark said. “I was happy when it was all over.”
Fast-forward six months, and Clark is into his first college camp, trying to climb the depth chart behind senior Jermauria Rasco and junior Danielle Hunter.
Through the hot summer’s grind, Dorshell is never far from Clark’s thoughts.
Each morning before summer school, Clark calls to catch up, see how she’s doing and reassure her that everything’s fine. He’s continued that routine during preseason drills with no plans to stop.
That’s just fine by Dorshell, who’s admired the resolve of her pursue his dream when it wasn’t universally popular. Through regular visits to her oncologist, Dorshell’s condition has stabilized enough to make arrangements to attend her son’s first five games with a goal of being on hand every time the Tigers play.
“I caught hell back and forth,” she said. “He’s been stubborn since the day he came into the world, and he wasn’t supposed to be here. He’s a good kid. I’m excited for him.”