By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – What is it that makes Arceto Clark tick? That, says his high school coach, is “the $64,000 question.”
Clark, a senior wide receiver for Mississippi State, is a man of few words. Very few words. Which makes it difficult to get inside his head.
Even Porter Casey, who coached Clark at Shannon High School, was never able to penetrate that quietude.
“I don’t know that I’ve gotten any closer to it than you did as much time as I spent around him,” Casey said. “He just kind of kept to himself. Never a problem in the school, never had any issues with his grades.
“Just one of those kids that if he didn’t play football, you probably wouldn’t even know he existed in high school.”
Clark’s current coach, Dan Mullen, doesn’t have an answer, either.
“I don’t know, he’s quiet with me, too,” Mullen said.
Clark’s play on the football field has earned him plenty of attention over the years. He was one of the few players to go both ways for Casey, playing receiver and cornerback. His proficiency on both offense and defense was why Clark made the Daily Journal’s All-Area team in the “Iron Man” category.
He was hardly a vocal leader, but Casey said Clark’s passion and enthusiasm for the game were evident.
“He was a very confident player,” Casey said. “He had an inner drive, didn’t express it outwardly very much, but he had an inner drive to succeed and was very confident in his abilities. He didn’t feel the need to talk like a lot of kids do these days.”
That might be the closest to explaining what drives Clark, who doesn’t reveal any more than that when asked.
“I just believe in myself,” he said. “I don’t like nobody to tell me what I can’t do.”
When Clark came to MSU in 2008, Sylvester Croom was entering what would be his final season as head coach. Clark played in five games as a wide receiver.
Then Mullen took over, and Clark was moved to defense. He redshirted in 2009 after an offseason arrest for petit larceny affected his academics. Then the following spring, he went back to receiver, and that fall had 25 catches for 362 yards and three touchdowns.
Clark was cool with playing either receiver or cornerback, but the former is his preference.
“I was very excited,” he said of the move to offense. “I was like, OK, I’m back to my position now, let’s go.”
Clark has become one of MSU’s most reliable ball-catchers. He runs precise routes and rarely drops a pass. This season, he’s recorded career highs in both catches (33) and yards (451) heading into the Bulldogs’ Gator Bowl meeting with No. 21 Northwestern on Jan. 1.
Under the lights
“Very few times have they thrown his way that he didn’t come down with the football since he’s been in college. He was the same way in high school,” Casey said. “He’s also one of those that come game time, he shows up. He may not have the best week of practice, but when the lights come on he’s ready to play.”
Clark has a head for the game, which was evident to Casey during a playoff game against West Lauderdale in 2006. Clark, a junior at the time, jumped a hitch route and returned the interception for a touchdown.
Shannon went on to win, 21-14.
“I asked him after the play, ‘How’d you know that wasn’t going to be a double move? What made you jump on the hitch?’” Casey said. “He said, ‘I just read the quarterback and got a feel for what he was doing all night and broke on the ball.’
“Those instincts. You don’t usually think of a hitch getting intercepted.”
Off the field, Clark doesn’t say much. He said he’s the quiet guy in the room and describes himself as “very laid back.”
While that makes him hard to read, Clark’s teammates know exactly what to expect from him on the field.
“He’s self-motivated,” quarterback Tyler Russell said. “You really don’t have to say much to him; he’s always ready to play.”