Talking Sports and Fitness | Meet Ralph Clark
Ralph Clark is the first head football coach at Alvernia University, which is starting up the program and will kick off in the 2018 season in the Middle Atlantic Conference that includes Albright College. Clark shares with Zeke the opportunities that come with creating a program. "People talk about the challenges of a startup program," Clark says. "I don’t look at challenges. I am the ultimate optimist. Challenges are all opportunities." Clark tells Zeke that he is no stranger to the situation, having been a freshman running back when Joe Walton, the former New York Giants and Washington Redskins tight end and head coach of the New York Jets for seven seasons, created the football program at Robert Morris University. "He told us, ‘Be happy for your teammates' success,'" Clark said. "That stuck with me. It is important to understand and accept your role and know how it fits in the overall success of the team. The ultimate goal is to win the game. Don’t tell me what we can’t do, I'm gonna tell you what we can do with hard work." Clark has 19 years of coaching experience but had never been a head coach until now. "The difference between defensive coordinator and head coach is that everything falls on your shoulders," Clark tells Zeke. "You have to think broad-based." While his recent focus has been defense, Clark has coached every position except offensive line. After an extensive search by Alvernia, the school hired Clark because of his character and integrity, his charisma, his success as a recruiter, and being a players' coach that players love to play for. His boundless energy and emphasis on faith, family and academics made him the perfect fit for Alvernia. It is a shared respect. "Alvernia is a special place," Clark tells Zeke. "We do have core values and mission. That is what I was looking for. Alvernia is the most supportive environment both academically and athletically than any school I've been at. We’ve got more support directed to our students. It’s all about the atmosphere. It’s different at Alvernia." While they are not playing until the 2018 season, Clark tells Zeke he is working hard to bring in recruits in 2017 so they can train and get to know the culture. "We’ll do everything we are allowed to do (under NCAA guidelines); we just aren’t playing games in the 2017 season," Clark says. "We’ll get them in the weight room and on the field," Clark says. "But we will focus on ourselves. We won't be playing games or scrimmaging other schools. What it does is give you an opportunity to think about how it is you want it as a program. You get to mold and shape it brick by brick. Anybody that really loves football will embrace the opportunity. I am looking for guys that want to stay and help build the team. If you’re from this area, then stay here. We can build something special right here."