IOWA CITY, Iowa — Whether it’s his NFL resume or his engaging personality, Dallas Clark fancies himself as relatable to today’s college football players.
But the former Iowa tight end and Pro Bowler with the Indianapolis Colts knows his cache has boundaries. Three years into his post-NFL retirement, the 37-year-old Clark admits he no longer fits the older-brother type to this version of Iowa football player. That humbles him.
“What’s funny is you feel like you can relate to these players, but I’m old,” Clark said. “To them, they were born when I was almost playing. So it’s sad to admit you’re at that point. ‘You’re not that cool.’ You think you are in your head.”
Clark has performed “cool” tasks since moving back to his home area of Livermore, Iowa, located about three hours northwest of Iowa City. He bought his grandmother’s century farm and is converting its 135 acres into organic farming. It needs three years without chemicals before he can plant that style of corn and soybeans.
In August, Clark joined forces with actor Ashton Kutcher to bring Kinnick Stadium its first concert, the “Back Porch Revival,” which included country music stars Blake Shelton, Big & Rich and up-and-coming sensation Tucker Beathard, the brother of Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard. Money raised from the day-long series of concerts, which drew more than 50,000 attendees, helped kick-start The Native Fund, an initiative to help Iowans with financial needs.
This week, Clark is honored as the fifth recipient of the America Needs Farmers Wall of Honor, which salutes former Iowa football players who “exemplify the tenacity, work ethic, and character of the Iowa farmer.” Clark has a banner hanging over the northwest corner at Kinnick Stadium, where his name rests alongside previous recipients Casey Wiegmann, Jared DeVries, Bruce Nelson and Robert Gallery.
Although Clark is as small town as they come, he’s not a natural farmer. He didn’t grow up on a farm and he latches on to the old-timers to learn everything he can about the profession.
“I don’t have those kinds of cool stories, but what I have is respect and a passion for farming and I enjoy getting into it,” Clark said. “What’s awesome about it is I’ve got great farming friends I can ask questions. They’re like, ‘Oh.’ It’s no big deal to them. It’s like breathing. But to me I’m like, ‘Tell me more. You don’t understand, to you that’s what you do. But to me why do you do that?'”
Clark originally came to Iowa as a walk-on linebacker and grayshirted during Hayden Fry’s final year in 1998. Clark then picked up a scholarship and worked under former Iowa linebackers and current Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema. Clark stayed at linebacker for a few years before switching to offense. Clark played tight end for two years at Iowa, accumulating 81 catches for 1,281 yards and 8 touchdowns. He was named the John Mackey Award winner in 2002 as the nation’s best tight end and was a consensus first-team All-American.
In 2003, the Indianapolis Colts drafted Clark in the first round. He played nine years with the Colts, including the 2006 Super Bowl season, and earned a trip to the 2009 Pro Bowl. He finished his career with one season in Tampa Bay (2012) and Baltimore (2013) before retiring. In 11 seasons he caught 505 passes for 5,665 yards and 53 touchdowns.
The NFL was his business. Now he’s proud to represent Iowa in whatever forum that’s required and stays as close to the Hawkeyes as possible.
“Iowa football is one of those moments where you just played football and you went to school at the best school in the country,” Clark said. “It’s one of those things that anytime you go back, you have all those things going through your head and you hope you didn’t take it for granted. I think with all my trials and tribulations … it made me appreciate the opportunity.”