GREEN BAY, Wis. – When it comes to defensive linemen, the Green Bay Packers obviously want good football players. But if those good football players happen to also have been good wrestlers, well, all the better.
So while Packers general manager Ted Thompson drafted UCLA nose tackle Kenny Clark Thursday night based on what Clark did on the field for the Bruins, what Clark did on the mat as a prep at Carter High School in Rialto, California, almost certainly helped him get to this point.
“That is true,” Thompson said, adding that he believes that there’s “quite a bit” of correlation between the two sports. “Football players and wrestlers kind of become one in the same – especially offensive and defensive linemen – because they do concentrate and know about leverage and understand the way it works.”
In addition to being a four-star football recruit, Clark won a California Interscholastic Federation wrestling title as a senior, beating future college teammate/UCLA guard Alex Redmond. (Redmond, who could be drafted this weekend, later won a rematch.) Although his wrestling career is far from the most compelling aspect of Clark’s life story, it was a factor in his development as a football player.
“Wrestling helps a great deal when [you’re] a young kid coming up and in high school,” Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said in an interview last season. “I know as an ex-wrestler myself, [you] learn good leverage positions.”
Although the 6-foot-2 1/2, 315-pound Clark believes that wrestlers’ understanding of leverage is an advantage, he said there are other physical traits – and one mental one – that also pay dividends on the football field.
Asked at the scouting combine in February which NFL defensive linemen he watches and admires, one of the players Clark mentioned was his new teammate in Green Bay, Mike Daniels. A fourth-round pick in 2012 out of Iowa, Daniels has grown into the Packers’ defensive line leader and signed a four-year, $41 million contract late last season.
Daniels also happens to be a former wrestler.
“Having leverage [helps with] being able to feel people out and how people are leaning toward you and feeling out their power, their momentum,” Clark said in a conference call with Wisconsin reporters after being picked. “It’s [also] having great hands. The biggest thing is being able to bend and have leverage.
“But another thing is having that ‘attack’ mentality that you’ve got to have. It’s a constant battle in wrestling. You get really tired. You have to battle through that when you’re wrestling.”