Family a part of Western gridiron tradition
GET READY FOR ONE HAWK OF A RIDE. Third-year Mustang tight end Hudson Clark is a big part of Western's offensive play book this year.
By Will Fleury
Homecoming may sound like just another football game, but to some it means much, much more. It is a long and rich tradition which creates an atmosphere of camaraderie defying description. It is a chance for the present to meet the past and for a football team to pay tribute to its roots.
"Homecoming is right up there with the Vanier Cup. The alumni presence makes the entire weekend an unbelievable experience," Mustang tight end Hudson Clark said. "You may not know these men personally, but they may have had the same number as you or the same locker so you get talking. It's really amazing because you know they've been where you are now."
Clark, a third-year player out of Windsor, is having a career season and is in an intense battle with fellow tight end and co-captain Mike Wilson for the starting position.
"The starting position has been up in the air since training camp," Hudson said. "We have had some intense battles but the competition is a healthy one we feed off of it and it has elevated both of our games."
Hudson was quite concerned when Wilson, a good friend, was sidelined with an early season injury. However, this healthy competition has allowed Hudson the opportunity to step up to the challenge of his first starting role. Clark quickly scored his first touchdown and has been a key part of Western's early-season success.
Clark also has a unique perspective on Homecoming since his father, Morgan Clark, is a former Western varsity football player. Although Hudson recognizes the tradition of Homecoming, it is slightly diluted from what his father experienced.
"Playing in a Homecoming game in front 1,100 or 1,200 crazy purple fans was the experience of a lifetime," recalls Morgan Clark, an all-star lineman for Western from 1956 to 1958. "The attendance at the games nowadays is not as strong because I think the attitudes of the students are different."
This disappointment springs from the fact the elder Clark has witnessed numerous improvements to the Canadian University football game in his lifetime.
"Today's players are bigger than when I played. I think it's partly because they're just being born bigger but also because they have access to such outstanding weight-training facilities," he said. "Players are also more dedicated. When I played, we played football mostly for fun, but now football is a lifestyle. These players train for over 10 months a year."
The dedication Morgan Clark speaks of is apparent is his own son. Hudson, a six-foot-four, 245-pound giant, is no stranger to hard work.
"When Hudson was in high school, he was a multi-talented, multi-sport athlete but he wasn't very big. He was lucky and hit a late growth-spurt, but he has also worked extremely hard to get where he is now. I am extremely proud of what he is doing," Morgan said.
In trying to compare himself to his son, Morgan feels the resemblances end with the love of the game.
"Hudson is a completely different player from me. I was what you might call a wild man 100 per cent aggressive," Morgan said. "Hudson is more a student of the game. He plays with a lot of heart but is more of a leader and a team player than I was. He is also sensitive I mean, he responds to praise and criticism very easily."
When asked if he felt any pressure to follow in his father's footsteps and carry on the Western winning tradition, Hudson was quick to reply, "My father just wanted me to be active. It didn't matter what I chose to do, as long as I has fun and put forth my best effort."
As for this year's Homecoming game, both father and son agreed, if Western shows up mentally prepared to play, the Warriors don't have a prayer.
"This year's team is a complete package. We are strong at every position and, with a solid core of returning players, we have a team unity that is very strong. When we come together, I don't think anyone will be able to beat us including Waterloo," the younger Clark said.
Despite his thoughts regarding the spirit of today's Western students, the senior Clark remains in complete support of the weekend dedicated to alumni.
"Western's Homecoming game stands apart from others, in terms of spirit and community recognition. In fact, I would say it is the closest thing to the American college football hype that you'll find in Canada."