June 21, 2012 Clark making smooth transition into second career
By: Larry Mayer | Last Updated: 6/21/2012 9:10 AM
Desmond Clark is no longer catching passes or blocking linebackers. But the former Bears tight end has found a second profession where he can use the leadership skills and drive he demonstrated in the NFL.
Clark, 35, has become a real state Pofessional, joining Coldwell Banker in Libertyville as a broker associate specializing in investment properties. “The challenge is to find the investors what they’re looking for and to go out and make the connections with the right people so we can make the right deals,” Clark said during a visit to Halas Hall.
“Everything that I did playing football is similar to what I do now in terms of the detail you have to put into it and studying your game plan as far as where to buy, what to go after, and what not to go after. It’s all about studying the game and studying the market.”
After playing for the Broncos (1999-2001) and Dolphins (2002), Clark spent the final eight of his 12 NFL seasons with the Bears from 2003-10. He ranks second all-time in franchise history among tight ends with 242 receptions, trailing only Hall of Famer Mike Ditka.
Clark became the first Bears tight end since Ditka in 1962-64 to catch at least 40 passes in three consecutive seasons when he recorded 45, 44 and 41 receptions from 2006-08.
Asked about the highlight of his career, Clark said: “Coming out onto the field during pre-game introductions for the Super Bowl [in 2006], and then seeing Devin Hester take the opening kickoff back for a touchdown and thinking, ‘We’re going to win this game.’"
“It didn’t turn out that way,” Clark said. “But that’s still the biggest moment of my professional career.”
When Clark entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick with the Broncos in 1999, he never dreamed he would enjoy a long pro career. After becoming the ACC’s all-time leading receiver as a wideout at Wake Forest, he was switched to tight end as a rookie and buried on the depth chart behind future Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe, Dwayne Carswell and Byron Chamberlain.
“I didn’t even think I was going to play for a year,” Clark said. “I had never played the tight end position in my life. I was struggling with the playbook and coaches were all over my case. I didn’t think I was going to make the team, and then for them to keep four tight ends on the roster was a surprise to me.”
Clark gradually ascended the depth chart and developed into an excellent tight end. He’s hoping to follow the same path in real estate and isn’t spooked by recent stories detailing how some former NFL players have struggled to transition out of the game.
“It hasn’t been difficult for me at all,” Clark said. “I don’t want to speak for the guys who have had difficulty, but my belief is that a lot of guys just identify themselves as a football player. I think that’s where a lot of guys get in trouble because once football ends, then what? You’ve got to have more to yourself than just being a football player.
"You can’t identify who you are with what you do. You’ve got to have that independent of what you do for your career. I always kept the two separate. I played football for a living, but when people asked me who I was, I didn’t tell them I was a football player. I told them my name first and then I told them what I did.
“I think that mindset helped me transition. I believe I’m a smart guy. I believe I’m intelligent. I believe I can do whatever it is I want to do. So it was just finding out what it is I was going to do.”
After dabbling in broadcasting, Clark decided to become a real estate professional.
“It fits me perfectly,” he said. “I don’t have to sit in an office. It’s not the same thing every day. I’m not dealing with the same people every day. I was able to find something that fit my personality of just going out and making things happen, talking to people and being around people, so it was a perfect fit.”
I'd like to see him get a spot or two during the year on one of the radio shows talking football. But I'm glad he's found a new career.