Ferndale's Cooper Clark to play football at Weber State following religious mission

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDApril 9, 2014 

Ferndale’s Cooper Clark (5) committed to play football at Weber State.

ANDY BRONSON — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Ferndale football coach Jamie Plenkovich summoned Cooper Clark to his office soon after the conclusion of Clark's junior season, looked his quarterback and defensive standout in the eye and reassured him that what he'd been working his whole career for was, in fact, possible.

"He got a call from a college asking, 'Do you have any players that could play at the D1 level?'" Clark said in a phone interview. "He said that I'm one of the few players he thinks can actually play D1 football."

Clark made his dream official nearly two months ago, but recently announced he's signed a letter of intent to play for Division I-AA school Weber State from the Big Sky Conference.

Roughly 20 other smaller-sized schools took interest, Clark said, but the Ferndale athlete narrowed his choices down to Southern Utah and Weber State. He selected Weber State after taking a trip to visit both universities during the first week of February.

"I have never been more excited for anything in my life," said Clark of his decision to be a Weber State Wildcat. "Ever since day one, I have worked as hard as possible. I've always wanted to play at that level, and I put in a lot of effort. I'm extremely excited."

Clark played a myriad of positions during his Ferndale football career, but most recently served as the Golden Eagles' starting quarterback and defensive back. He is an athletic player with a 6-foot-3 frame, and Clark said the Weber State coaches envision him as either a receiver or safety.

But Clark's college commitment came with an exception.

He is a devout Mormon and decided before the recruitment process began that he wanted to serve a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"I would always say, first thing, I'm going to serve a mission," Clark said. "There was never any doubt in my mind. The only reason I can play football is because of the blessings I've gotten from the Lord, and I owe it to him to give him as much work as I can."

Clark is following in footsteps of his two older brothers, Tanner and Cory Clark. Tanner served in Bolivia in a Spanish speaking mission, while Cory is right now in the Philippines in a Tagalog speaking mission.

Starting Aug. 6, Cooper will begin serving his mission on the islands of Reunion and Mauritius, which are two small French islands about 400 miles east of Madagascar.

Cooper didn't get the option of choosing the location, only if he wanted to serve a foreign or domestic mission.

"It was a very emotional and happy moment," said Clark of when he discovered where he'd serve. "I have seen both my brothers open up their letters, and it's just awesome. That's the only word I can use to explain it, and it's just amazing to get to have that experience."

Cooper said he is looking forward to personal growth, setting aside what he wants in order to spread the gospel and "helping people know that there is a reason that we are all here on earth."

Once Cooper's mission comes to an end in late summer 2016, he'll head to Ogden, Utah to begin his collegiate football career as part of Weber State's 2017 incoming class.

He'll have six-to-seven months to train before enrolling in January 2017, and Cooper views placing his football career on hold as a positive.

"I think it's going to work out good," he said. "Being a 20-year-old freshman, that's two extra years of maturing. It'll help out a lot."

Even after Cooper completes his four years at Weber State, he's hoping his football career won't be over. He plans to study athletic training and afterward become a graduate assistant with the hopes of becoming a football coach.

"It's a pretty tough thing, but I have been watching film since I was 5 years old," he said. "Football has been a huge part of my life, and I want to be able to go into coaching. ... I want to throw in a special thanks to everybody who has helped me get to this point, and also wanted to say to put the Lord first and everything will fall into place."

Reach Andrew Lang at andrew.lang@bellinghamherald.com or call or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.

Reach ANDREW LANG at andrew.lang@bellinghamherald.com or call ext. 862.

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