BY Sheldon mickles
August 07, 2012
METAIRIE — Besides being the highest-paid player in NFL history after signing a five-year, $100 million contract this month, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees may also qualify as the highest-paid scout.
Even if free-agent wide receiver Marques Clark doesn’t make the Saints’ practice squad — he’s a long shot, having not playing football since 2006 — he can at least tell his children and grandchildren that he was scouted by the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XLIV.
Clark, 28, was an assistant coach at Westview High School in San Diego when he was asked by Brees, who owns a home in the area and returns there in July to escape the heat of New Orleans, to run routes for he and teammates Chase Daniel and Sean Canfield during their informal workouts.
“I started coaching last year, and they would come out there and work out,” Clark said. “I happened to see them and Drew asked me if I wanted to run some routes. I said, ‘Yeah.’ Who would say no to that?”
Brees said he knew nothing about Clark, whom he initially met at the school last summer, until he approached him about catching balls this spring.
“He kind of like, straight from coaching, just took off his sweatshirt and stepped in and started running routes,” Brees said. “After a couple, you’re like, ‘Man, there’s something about this guy. He’s got something.’
“I’d watch him make a catch or watch him run a route and he’d make it look just so natural and so easy. Finally ,I pull him aside after one of those throwing sessions and I’m like, ‘Man, what’s your story? What’s the deal?’ ”
The story is that Clark, a 6-foot-1, 175-pounder, went to a junior college before moving on to play for Division II Henderson State in Arkansas. In his two seasons there, he caught 91 passes for 1,456 yards and 11 touchdowns.
When he left school, Clark said he never knew the process of getting to the NFL and never had a tryout with an NFL team until Brees convinced the Saints’ personnel staff to give him a look last week.
“After I graduated (in 2009), I went back home and tried to get regular jobs,” said Clark, who tried out for a couple of UFL clubs but never got a call back. “I kept in shape and got here. It was patience, a lot of patience.”
After getting a call from the Saints on July 19, Clark flew into New Orleans last Monday night and worked out the next day.
He ran some routes and 40-yard dashes and was signed to a contract on the spot. He was on the field the next day for conditioning tests, and later Wednesday, he suited up for his first NFL practice.
“I just told my family and my very close friend that I was coming down here,” he said. “All of a sudden, I get here and I get signed and my phone starts blowing up. I was like, ‘How do people know about this already?’ ”
Brees added: “He’s modest, but competitive. You can tell there’s this competitive fire like he wants to catch every ball, wants to run every route perfectly. He never wants to be outhustled.
“Chase and Sean ended up coming out and they threw with us as well. So they were watching him and I said, ‘Is is just me? I just want to make sure I’m not crazy, but this guy belongs in a camp, right? This guy looks like he can play in the NFL.’ And they’re like, ‘Yes, absolutely.’ ”
While he faces an extremely uphill battle to even make the practice squad, with 10 other wide receivers on the training camp roster and probably five spots available, Clark will be happy no matter how it plays out.
He said he’s well aware of the story of Michael Lewis, the former beer truck driver who never played college football but made the Saints in 2001 and was a Pro Bowl kick returner one year later. He played for the Saints from 2001-06.
But Clark can’t even dream about that yet.
“Everybody was telling me about him when I got here,” he said with a smile. “I’m just trying to be as good as all of the players that are already here.”