Less than a calendar year after saying goodbye to the Steelers and their fans to finish his career where it started in Washington D.C., Ryan Clark today announced his retirement from the National Football League.
A fan favorite whose loquacious nature will serve him well as an NFL analyst, it is no stretch to say that Troy Polamalu would not have had nearly as many spectacular plays over his career had he not had a partner like Clark at free safety in the Steelers' defensive backfield. Their on field chemistry was so great it was as if the two shared a brain at times.
However, Clark made more than a few great plays himself, many via ferocious hits, as his memorable leveling of Wes Welker in 2008 and Percy Harvin in 2009.
Clark has said himself that the Welker hit (right) is his favorite of his career, one in which he led with the shoulder after a tipped ball -- meaning it probably wouldn't have drawn a flag or fine even in the modern era of Roger Goodell's NFL.
But his hit on Willis McGahee in the 2008 AFC Championship game was quite frankly the most violent single play in the most violent game I've ever witnessed. It is more punishing than anything James Harrison did to a trio of Browns, or Hines Ward did to Ed Reed (although maybe not Keith Rivers).
Today it would certainly be a penalty, and probably a fine. And admittedly it gave a chill then, and even moreso now given how much more is known about CTE. Nonetheless .... It is a thing of savage beauty.
Check that and the Welker hit out at the bottom.
But lest Clark merely be remembered for being a head-splitting barbarian, it is more worth remembering that he was one of the all-time great guys with fans and especially kids up at training camp, a total ham that signed every autograph after practice and gave away his equipment almost daily.
Here are the hits.
First: On Wes Welker vs. New England, Nov. 30, 2008
Next: On Willis McGahee vs. Baltimore (AFC Championship), Jan. 18, 2009