Will Clarke Says Goodbye to Morgantown as NFL Draft Begins - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Will Clarke Says Goodbye to Morgantown as NFL Draft Begins

MORGANTOWN - Walking down High Street, pacing the sidewalks that have guided him for the past five years, Will Clarke had a feeling that he was saying goodbye with each stop he made.

Every person he spoke with, every building he entered was like another date checked off of a farewell tour. After this, he would be off to private workouts with any number of NFL teams and ultimately, he would sit down and watch as 32 head coaches and executives decided his future.

Wherever Clarke ends up, he knows that Morgantown is in his rearview.

“This will be a place that I’ll come to visit now instead of a place where I’ll live,” Clarke said in April. “I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for Morgantown and I’ll always come back.”

Clarke, a 6-foot-6, 271-pound defensive lineman, has been preparing himself for this week’s NFL Draft as long as he can remember. As a high school and college football player, the idea of hearing your name called in the three-day affair can seem as though it is merely a dream, but that dream will come true for Clarke in the coming days.

Projections have Clarke all over the board, some as high as the third round and others dropping down to rounds five or six. He says he has spoken with every single team that will be represented and each envisions a different future for him.

Some like his speed and athleticism and believe he translates well to an outside linebacker in a 3-4, while others prefer to get his hand in the dirt as a defensive end. Through his career at WVU, he played just about everything he could as he transitioned from coach to coach and coordinator to coordinator.

“Playing under multiple defensive coordinators and d-line coaches and head coaches helped prepare me for different schemes that I’ll face in the NFL,” Clarke said, while admitting that it has been a challenge to know how he should prepare his body when his position could be altered depending on where he lands.

“Any team I go to is a blessing,” Clarke said. “I don’t have a particular place, team, spot [I prefer] – anywhere I go, I’ll be happy.”

Of course, Clarke’s family wouldn’t mind if he wound up in their backyard as a Pittsburgh Steeler, but for now, they’ll settle for having him home to watch the Draft. He says he hasn’t been nervous as he has gone through practices at the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl or when he completed drills at the NFL Combine. The nerves, he’s sure, will come when teams actually begin picking players and he knows his name could be the next to flash across the screen.

Clarke allowed our camera to follow him around late last month for the WVU Coaches Show as he made his way through his college campus, stopping at a few places that he frequented throughout his time at West Virginia University.

The first stop was at a barbershop called Classic Cutz, where Clarke and other WVU football players have come to get a trim from Bilal Adams for years. Clarke walks in and immediately it becomes clear that he views the place as more of a sanctuary than simply a destination for a haircut.

“Will’s been coming here for about four years,” Adams said. “He’s a good dude, a really outstanding athlete and just the personal relationship of knowing someone from when they were a freshman all the way until now, a senior, and hopefully going to the NFL, it’s a great feeling. You become attached with the players and you watch them grow from young kids to a grown man.”

These are the sort of relationships Clarke has come to cherish in his time in Morgantown. He realizes that although his journey will take him to another city with another logo on his helmet, he will always identify himself as a Mountaineer.

“The thing about it is you find people, no matter where you’re at, different countries or different states – you say you’re a West Virginia grad or even a West Virginia student, it’s an automatic bond that you have with the person. You can talk about anything,” Clarke said. “It’s like you’re friends from there on out.”

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