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Drew Brees gives former high school assistant coach a shot at NFL

July 29, 2012|By Chuck Schilken
  • New Orleans Saints receiver Marques Clark -- who until recently was an assistant coach at a San Diego-area high school -- runs a route during practice in Metairie, La., on Saturday.
New Orleans Saints receiver Marques Clark -- who until recently was an assistant… (Gerald Herbert / Associated…)

Marques Clark could not believe what he was hearing. But it really was happening -- the former Division II Henderson State wide receiver who hadn't played organized football since 2006 was being offered a contract by New Orleans Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis.

“It was like I didn't really think he was talking to me," Clark said. "It was an out-of-body experience. I thought, 'Did he really just say that?' And he was staring at me like, 'Yeah, we're going to sign you.' "

Clark, 28, says he always dreamed of playing in the NFL while at Henderson State, where he had 91 catches for 1,456 yards and 11 touchdowns. And now he has a shot, thanks in large part to Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who has worked out the last two summers at the San Diego-area Westview High, where Clark serves as the receivers coach.

The two of them started working out together, and the former Super Bowl MVP was impressed with what he saw.

“I'd watch him make a catch or watch him run a route and make it look just so natural and so easy. Finally, I pull him aside after one of those throwing sessions and I'm just like, 'Man, what's your story? What's the deal?' "

Clark, who had a couple of unsuccessful tryouts with the United Football League and also once served as a cashier at a casino, said he had been staying in shape just in case something came up.

So Brees made that happen. After several more workouts and getting second opinions from backups Chase Daniel and Sean Canfield, the quarterback told quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi and director of pro scouting Ryan Pace about the high school assistant coach who had been running routes for him.

"Sounds crazy, right?" Brees said he told them. "But this guy can play."

He added: "Sure enough, they bring him in, try him out, he catches every ball, looks great and they sign him up."

Now Clark is in training camp with the Saints. And if he has his way, he will hold down his dream job for a long time. "I won't be home until February," an optimistic Clark said, "and [I'm] stuck with no clothes or anything, but it doesn't matter."

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