Defensive tackle Kenny Clark named Packers’ 2018 Tom Mulhern Award recipient
GREEN BAY — The idea of Kenny Clark as one of the “older guys” remains a running joke in the Green Bay Packers’ defensive line room, where the 23-year-old third-year defensive tackle is still the youngest player in the room.
Clark, the Packers’ 2016 first-round pick from UCLA, won’t turn 24 until October, making him younger than even rookie defensive linemen Tyler Lancaster (who turned 24 last month) and James Looney (who’ll be 24 in May).
“So, I’m still like a young guy still but still kind of like an older guy. It’s definitely weird,” Clark said with a chuckle Friday. “But by how I carry myself and how I work, they love it. Guys gravitate towards me and we all work together.”
Clark, whose season is over because of an elbow injury that landed him on injured reserve earlier this week, has also set example for his teammates — young and old alike — in his dealings with reporters this season as well.
For that, Clark was honored with the 2018 Tom Mulhern Stand-Up Guy Award, presented by the Green Bay chapter of the Professional Football Writers of America. The award is given to the player or players voted to have shown “exemplary professionalism in helping pro football writers covering the Green Bay Packers do their jobs.”
The award is named for late Tom Mulhern, the former Wisconsin State Journal writer who covered the Packers (1986-1998) for the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Milwaukee Sentinel and Appleton Post-Crescent and State Journal before covering University of Wisconsin football for the State Journal from 1999 through 2014. Mulhern died in October 2014 from complications caused by Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease at age 56.
The award was first presented in Mulhern’s honor in 2016, when guard T.J. Lang and safety Micah Hyde were selected. Last year, wide receiver Davante Adams and veteran left tackle David Bakhtiari were honored.
“I’m still shy and quiet and stuff, but when I first came in here, I was real quiet, didn’t really want to talk to nobody, just tried to stay to myself,” Clark said. “I think I came out of my shell a little more, and as I started playing a little bit better I started to get a lot more confident and a lot better.
“This last year, this is probably the most I’ve spoken. Even my rookie year, after I got drafted, I got talked to a lot but not like this year. … This year, I’ve never talked so much in my life — to the media or just in the locker room in general.”
Asked why he feels being available to reporters is importance, Clark replied, “A lot of it is trying to connect with the fans, and just trying to be a good guy all-around. I know you (reporters) have a job to do, and it’s my job to talk. And then, just connecting with the fans, showing them my side, how I do things. That’s just how I am.”
Clark was also in demand because of how well he played. Clark set career highs in sacks (six) and tackles (73), and after the team lost veteran defensive linemen Muhammad Wilkerson (leg) and Mike Daniels (foot) to injuries, Clark was a rock in the middle. He was selected as a Pro Bowl alternate in an NFC stacked with elite defensive tackles, and he was also chosen as the Packers’ Walter Payton Man of the Year award recipient for his off-the-field work.
“A lot of the stuff I wanted to do this season, I did,” Clark said. “I’m really happy about where I’m at. I’m getting a lot better.
“One of the big things this year was trying to be a three-down player, and I think I accomplished that, too — just showing the team and everybody that I can be on the field all three downs. It’s all about getting a feel for things and getting better at that, being a more productive and consistent three-down player.”