Starkville High School's Clark commits to Memphis

Starkville's Rodrigues Clark
Staff Writer

In a year where the state of Mississippi is as loaded in football recruits as it has been in recent memory, many people seem to be forgetting about one of the best running backs in the state.

That back is reigning Starkville Daily News Player of the Year Rodrigues Clark, who stormed back from consecutive season-ending knee surgeries to post a dominating junior campaign. The star running back of the Yellowjackets produced 1,705 yards on the ground a year ago on 290 carries for 17 touchdowns and posted 11 100-yard performances in 14 games. He led SHS back to the Class 6A State championship in 2017 where it fell just short of the goal of a state title.

All of that has led to a huge spring and early summer for Clark, who has suddenly become a wanted man on the recruiting scene. Over the last few months, Clark has picked up a total of 13 offers including Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana Lafayette, UAB and others. On Sunday afternoon, however, he made an early call on his decision.

Clark made a trip up the road to Memphis and committed to the Tigers and head coach Mike Norvell. It was a decision he simply was just ready to make.

“I talked to my family about it and I wanted to get that out of the way before the season came,” Clark said. “They showed me a lot of love and it just felt like the place for me.”

Clark shared that Mississippi native Will Hall was a large part of the reason he chose the Tigers. The former West Georgia and West Alabama head coach is rising up the Football Bowl Subdivision ranks now and is recruiting the state of Mississippi hard.

Along with running backs coach Anthony Jones and Norvell, the Tigers made Clark feel like he was a priority, something that he felt was missing from other schools.

“(Hall) really cares about me and we talk almost every day,” Clark said. “The coaches came down to recruit during the spring and they said that I’m a different back that plays different than most other backs they see. Coach Norvell is a lot like (Starkville coach Chris Jones). He’s all about business and hasn’t had any bad seasons. He could have gone to other schools, but he chose to stay at Memphis. “

Norvell’s first two seasons at the helm have been good ones.

The Tigers followed up 27 wins in 2014 and 2015 with an 8-5 year in 2016 and 10-3 season last year. Their offense became one of the best in the country with Norvell and it led them to a 7-1 record in the American Athletic Conference with wins over UCLA and Navy in the top 25 with two of their losses for the year coming against top 10 Central Florida, which was in the AAC championship.

“They’re kind of similar to Starkville just with a bigger field,” Clark said of the program. “They’re about to get a $3 million facility with turf so their program is really going up. I talked to a couple of recruits when they found out that I was going to Memphis and now they’re interested in visiting.”

Before his commitment, Clark said that he mostly was hearing from Southern Miss and UTSA with some interest from Ole Miss and Tennessee. He has plans to take in the Ray Lewis camp at IMG Academy in Florida this weekend with a trip to Hattiesburg and USM, Arkansas State and Tennessee also this summer.

Other than that, he has no plans to fully focus on recruiting after making his pledge. Now he’s ready to get back to a state title and win it this time.

“When I committed, a lot of coaches hit me up and wanted me to come visit,” Clark said. “It was on my mind heavy (to commit), though. When I got it off my chest, I felt like I made the right choice. I feel good about that decision.”

Clark is a 5-11, 205-pound, three-star back and rated the No. 38 player in the state of Mississippi by the 247Sports Composite rankings.