Every high school prospect has a person behind their talents, that one individual that drives them to the next level. In 2005, Ryan Clark was a junior wide receiver at Beaumont Ozen when a man named Verril Young took over the assistant coaching position.
Young came from well known powerhouse West Orange-Stark. There was a cornerback named Deon Beasley at Stark that year that was going into his senior season ranked as one of the top defensive backs in the country. Beasley was already committed to Texas when Young came to Ozen.
"I had a very good relationship with Beasley. Ryan was aware of me and Deon's relationship. I told him it's because I try to do right to my kids. I want to do everything I can to help kid's be successful."
It didn't take Clark long to listen to Young and let the experienced coach help him.
"Because of the relationship that I had with other kids and Beasley, Ryan wanted to be a part of that. I took Ryan under my wing and built a special bond and relationship and built some trust. He started believing in me and what I was doing. It went from there."
As Young continued to work with the 6-foot-1, 170-pound junior, he instantly began making comparisons to Beasley. He then began to find out what was lacking in Clark's talents.
"Ryan was taller, bigger, and weighted more. He had all the ability, he just din't have the same level confidence. He lost his confidence too easily."
After a strong junior year, Young found a way to increase the young prospects confidence. In the spring of '07, Clark took his talents to a whole new level. Young was also the track coach and he gave Clark a new challenge that year.
"I had Ryan run track for me as a senior in high school. I put him in the hurdles and he did everything he could possibly do to get out of the hurdles and I wouldn't let him quit or get out of the event. It came to the point where he was trouble in the beginning. He didn't want to hurt myself."
Young refused to let Clark walk away from the track as he knew that it would pay off if he could get him to stick with it.
"In the end, he made it to the regional met in the 1x10 and 300 hurdles. He gained some confidence in his ability and what I was telling him the whole time: 'It's not your lack of ability, it's your lack of confidence.' His confidence started growing more and more to where now he's extremely confident and now believes he can play with anybody."
Out of high school, Clark wasn't recruited highly like Beasley was. But Young says that it had nothing to do with lack of talent.
"It was slow because he wasn't a qualifier. He had people coming by but they didn't talk to him because they realized that he's not going to be a kid they could actually bring in. When Navarro came around, we went on ahead and accepted that knowing that it was a stepping stone and where he needed to be at that time. He needed the time to grow and mature."
His freshman season at Navarro was undeniable. Clark registered the most tackles and interceptions in the conference that year. It was enough to start his sophomore year as a pre-season conference all-american.
His second season didn't go according to plan though. He was held back with a high ankle sprain that kept him out of four games. Then after being committed to Texas Tech for six months, the two decided to go separate directions.
"They backed out on him because they wanted him to come out in January and he's not going to graduate till May. So as a result, they pulled out. But I told him not to be concerned because there's a bunch of DI schools that want him also. It was just a matter of a phone call."
The four-star junior college talent got that phone call from SMU not more than two weeks later. Now, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound recruit is committed to the Mustangs and according to Young, more than ready to perform at the Division-I level.
"He's matured tremendously. Now he knows exactly what's at stake. He knows what his ability is and the possibility of allowing him to do what he can do with his life."
As for his relationship with Young, the two are closer than ever.
"I still work out with him when he comes home for the holidays. He called me today and told me he'd come in during the break and told me to be ready to go. He said 'Let's be ready to pick up the pace and turn on the fire'. I told him that I'm ready to go right now!
"That's what I've seen, the maturity in terms of being focused and understanding what's at stake and now he knows what he needs to do in order to get better every single day. Now, you don't have time to take days off. Now, everything you do is for real."
Things become real for Clark and the Mustangs when he moves to Dallas in June. Until then, he'll be preparing to come in and have an immediate impact on the program.