Berea, Ohio — Before this year's NFL draft, there was a wide range of predictions for when — or if — former Michigan defensive end Frank Clark would come off the board.
The Wolverines kicked Clark off the team last November following allegations of hitting his former girlfriend at a Sandusky, Ohio hotel. In April, Clark pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct and had the misdemeanor assault charge dropped.
Then, on May 1, the Seattle Seahawks drafted Clark with the 63rd overall pick in the second round, and he said there's nothing in his life for which he's more thankful.
"I was surprised because of what I'd been through and I got drafted so high," Clark said Friday at the NFL Rookie Symposium. "I've always known I was a good talent. I knew I was good. I've got a lot of confidence in myself, but at the same time for the Seahawks … to take an opportunity and give me an opportunity to showcase my talent there, I owe them a lot."
Even without the domestic violence allegations, Clark going in the second round was a surprise to some analysts. The 6-foot-3, 272-pound defensive end was solid in college with 25½ tackles for loss and nine sacks his last two years, but those numbers are nearly as gaudy as some of the other pass rushers in the class.
Helping Clark was one of the highest SPARQ scores in the draft, a metric that measures a player's athleticism based on several different attributes and one the Seahawks use in the draft process.
Clark also must've convinced the Seahawks that any domestic violence issues were in his past, and he said coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have helped him understand the severity of his situation.
"I think they did a good job of protecting me from certain people and the people who were trying to throw extra dirt on the situation," he said.
And even though at the combine in February Clark denied hitting the woman and even indicated that her actions led to what happened in that hotel room, he expressed some regret Friday in how the situation ended his career at Michigan, a team that was 5-5 with him and finished 5-7.
"It tore me up a lot because it wasn't even for my coaches. It was for the players around me because they're the people I always played for," he said. "I always played for my boys around me, and as a senior for it to happen was heartbreaking because I had so many hopes.
"Even though we didn't finish the season how we wanted to while I was there, I just had so many hopes for that team and I wanted to leave that team in the right fashion, and I don't believe I left that team in the right fashion."
Regardless, Clark now has an opportunity to contribute to a defense that's been No. 1 in the NFL the last two years and a team that's made the Super Bowl each of the last two seasons. He's looking forward to learning from defensive linemen like Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril and linebackers K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner and Bruce Irvin.
So far, Clark said he's learning several positions and could line up anywhere from outside linebacker to defensive end to defensive tackle in the Seahawks' attacking scheme.
"I'm going to get in where I fit in,"
One way Clark said he's be able to avoid potentially career-altering situations is to spend more time mentoring children, which he and the other NFC rookies did Friday at a Play 60 event at Cleveland Browns headquarters. He also participated in former Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin's camp last week and has plans to help Denard Robinson and Steelers rookie Doran Grant at their camps this summer.
And after months of not knowing how that hotel incident would affect his future, Clark said he's glad to be focusing on football again.
"I believe it's in the past now," he said. "I went through it for six, seven months, from November to this point. I don't think I can dwell on it much longer — I can't. I can't afford to. I've got a season to play. I've got a big training camp ahead of me.
"I've got to compete for a job, and I can't dwell on the situation that happened in the past that is not going to affect my future in any kind of way now."