As a fullback, Joshua Clark reminds his coach of Craig “Ironhead” Heyward.
As a linebacker, the Camden High School senior stirs memories of Bill Bergey and Jack Lambert.
“He brings that hard-nosed toughness,” Panthers coach Dwayne Savage says.
“He runs the ball all downhill. He’s the most explosive player we have physically. He’s an old-school linebacker on defense, the ones you don’t see anymore. He’s like a Bill Bergey or a Jack Lambert, guys who just stick in there. They loved to hit and he is basically a kid who loves to hit.”
On a team loaded with major-college talent, Clark hasn’t drawn a lot of attention. Most opponents are focused on guys like Michigan recruits Ron Johnson and Brad Hawkins or Syracuse recruits Dymelle Parker and Jamal Holloway.
Add Maine-bound linebacker Demian Thomas to that collection, too.
Clark doesn’t mind being in the shadows, staying away from the spotlight so to speak. It’s allowed him to flourish.
“I like it more because I get to do stuff that most haven’t seen,” the 6-foot-1, 210-pounder said. “It gives me some freedom.”
Through four games, Clark is Camden’s second-leading rusher with 152 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries. He went for 91 yards and two TDs on eight carries in a recent win over Willingboro.
“When he runs the ball, he’s hard to bring down,” Savage said.
“He’s so big and he doesn’t try to juke you, he tries to run straight through you,” Hawkins added.
Defensively, he is third in tackles with 33 (22 solos). Clark also has four tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.
“I like blitzing for the most part,” said Clark, who has receiving college interest from Albany and Delaware State.
“He’s explosive when making tackles or getting off blocks. That’s what makes him special,” Savage noted. “While Dymelle and Damien (Thomas) go side-to-side, he’s going to be the guy who goes downhill and makes the hardest smacks, he’s going to fill the holes.”
Hawkins feels Clark is a defensive leader.
“He’s the type of player that when the switch is on, he’ll make that tackle for a loss and get the ball back,” Hawkins said. “He’s a pounder, he loves to hit. He brings a lot of energy.”
Clark is far from a finished product. He spent his first two years of high school at Shawnee, where he played in one varsity game at running back.
Coming into a new system at Camden, it took a little while to make the adjustment. Clark spent time last year at nose guard before moving to linebacker and some defensive end this season.
Savage said the improvement from last year has been dramatic.
“When he came to us, his footwork wasn’t where it needed to be so we put him down in a three-point stance,” the coach said. “This year he is way better standing up and making plays. He gets off the ball so quick.
“He’s not a surprise. We knew what he could bring to the table. Coming from a different style of offense and defense, we just waited for him to grasp our style. Now two years into our program, he’s able to pick up the things we want and be in on more plays.”
Clark had to learn how to play linebacker.
“It’s been different,” he said. “I’ve had to change the way I tackle, the way I move around. I have to change direction a lot but I picked it up pretty fast.
“I’ve picked things up and found my place.”
Kevin Minnick; (856) 486-2424; email@example.com