My Story : Part 1
When you meet someone that is considered successful, behind it all there is usually a story of overcoming some obstacles. This is my story.
Up until the age of 7 my two bothers and I lived a pretty good life. We lived in an apartment that was pretty nice, in a good neighborhood with plenty of kids, and a park 200 feet away from our door that served as an all season sporting venue for the neighborhood kids. Life was really good; we had not only what we needed but also a lot of things we wanted as kids. However, this all came to an end.
In 1985 my parents decided to separate and eventually divorce. This sent us reeling for a year or so. We transitioned from living with both parents to only having our mother to provide for us, to moving in with our aunt for a short while, to living in a shabby apartment, which occasionally had no electricity.
I remember being in that apartment having to store food in a small cooler. The food was kept cool with ice and we would routinely run to the store for purchases. There were nights that candles were our only light. Through all of this, we had each other and things were ok. Mom always put on a brave face and day-by-day did what she had to do to eventually rise up out of the situation we were in.
My father, on the other hand, had become addicted to crack cocaine. Early on I didn’t know this but looking back and knowing what I know now, he had been using drugs for a while.
I had even caught him and others at our home using or packaging cocaine. Needless to say, this addiction was the cause of our newfound hardships and the destruction of our family. My father moved in with my great grandmother and lived with her for the next 7-8 years.
My Story : Part 2
Fast forward to 1989. As a family (my mother and now 3 brothers), we had rebounded, my mother had secured a career with the Florida Highway Patrol, although my father was about to hit rock bottom. In September of 1989, after an argument with another drug addict, he was shot in the face with a shotgun. The pellets from the slug pierced his eyes and he was blinded for life.
After such a life and death incident you would think it would change a person’s outlook on life. For my father it didn’t. Recovered and discharged from the hospital he was back on the streets searching for his next high. Around this time, my oldest brother Ralph had started selling drugs and was bringing home large sums of money. He would leave it lying on the dresser. Now as a young boy who do you think I looked up to the most, you guessed it, my dad and my oldest brother. Damn, life had taken on a different outlook. My brother would eventually stop selling drugs. He said his motivation was his younger brothers. He notices my older brother Paul wanted to start coming around to hang out with him. Ralph said he didn’t want that for us. A short time later, he married at the age of 18 and moved out of the state.
I credit my mom for me having a lot of respect for my dad through all the misfortune. She never said anything bad in any way about a man that at the time, wasn’t a good person to her or our family. With that respect and an ever-present bond with my father, I would always seek to be around him, even if he was a shell of the dad I had known before. That bond was so strong that I would routinely go on seeking missions to find him no matter where he may have been. He would tell me to come find him at the beginning of the month before he spent his money. At the beginning of the month I would travel from crack house to crack house trying to locate him. Eventually, someone would tell me where he was.
My Story : Part 3
Looking back, I think every child growing up goes through some sort of upheaval ... perhaps mine was a bit worse, yet I have no hostilities towards anyone. I wouldn’t change anything. At the end of the day, I had some rough spots, but it’s what I learned from this environment and from the role models that surrounded me that matters.
Despite the challenges, I still vividly remember all the good things and all the good people that helped shaped me.
First and foremost is my resilient mother. I gained from her my attitude of never staying down. It certainly would have been easy for her to quit, to be overwhelmed. She worked around the clock and she never quit anything she started, always looking on the brighter side of life. My mom laid the foundation for our happiness as a family by making sure we had wanted we needed, food, a roof over our head, good Christmas’s, and most importantly love. We definitely didn’t have all of our ‘wants’ but we had us as a family and that made everything OK.
My Story : Part 4
As for my dad, you may be surprised to hear that he too is a role model. I’m talking about strength of mind or the “survival mindset,” his mental fortitude. After he kicked his crack habit, he then gave up cigarettes and later alcohol, and has remained ‘clean’ ever since. My dad today is committed to helping other drug users through his dedication to NA (Narcotics Anonymous) and his philanthropy efforts with his Clark House organization, with the goal of eventually helping them give up their substance abuse problem.
Both my mom and dad remarried, and as they say, “are living happily ever after.” All my brothers have done well too, living happy, ‘normal’ lives.
As for other role models or mentors, there were many. I was fortunate as a youth, teenager and young adult to have a group of men, coaches, who took me ‘under their wing.’ As a kid, not only did these role models teach me about sports, but they made my participation in sports possible by picking me and dropping me off when mom couldn’t and giving me worldly advice to get me through the tough times, and doing so much more.
At the high school level, my high school football coach Ernest Joe gave me some advice I’ll never forget, “ You only have 2 things in this life that mean anything, your word, and your last name.” I still live by that today and always protect it. My high school basketball coach Alvin Jones made me understand, “It’s about your work ethic, prepare and work hard at practice and enjoy success in the game.” I adopted an attitude that failure was not an option. There were numerous others, Mr. and Mrs. Wright, Mr. Carpenter, Coach Joyner and Coach Jackson to name a few.
My Story : Part 5
So armed with my “never say never” attitude and athletic ability, I won a scholarship to Wake Forest University and majored in Communications. After a stellar career at Wake the National Football League came calling, fulfilling a dream. I’ve enjoyed 13 years of pro ball and all the benefits that go with it. But football is what I do for a living, not who I am as a person. My passion is giving back and helping our youth, paying it back, as I know all too well the need for mentors and coaches in our lives – influential people who are not going to allow you to fail, who will push you so you achieve your goals.
So I started 88 Wayz a non-profit organization that provides the structure for our youth, a support network of mentors who are in your corner, who share your pain and your dreams. I’ve always said, “Nobody can tell me that I can’t do it. I can. ...Nothing is to big, in time I will accomplish, what I set out to do.”
So here I am now, winding down a professional football career, thankful to all those who made my dream possible. Now it’s time to really focus on helping others, because I know anything is possible.
This web site is about my life, where I’ve been, but more importantly, where I’m going. Please see the Philanthropy page, and learn more about 88Wayz. Write me and join me on my mission. Let’s make a difference together. Don’t go through life with any ‘what if’s’ - take the steps now to live your dream and to inspire and help others. Thank you for visiting my site - it is dedicated to my parents Rena Clark-Davis and Paul Clark Sr., and to my brothers Ralph Wilson, Paul Clark Jr., and Dominique Davis.
Professional NFL Athlete
I’m fortunate to being playing professional football for a living but I don’t define myself by what I do for a living but how much good I can do for my fellow man.