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As his stock rises, Kenny Clark embraces chance to give back

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GREEN BAY - Kenny Clark never imagined someday being a professional athlete who hosts a football camp in his hometown for younger players.

It’s not that the Packers defensive tackle didn’t want to. It’s just where Clark grew up in San Bernardino, Calif., he hardly knew of any area football standouts who rose to the NFL ranks.

After becoming the Packers’ first-round pick in 2016, however, the 6-foot-3, 314-pound defensive tackle quickly made it his goal to give back to his local community in any way he could.

Now, at the tender age of 22, Clark already is preparing to host his second annual Kenny Clark Football Camp at his alma mater, Wilmer Amina Carter High School, this Sunday in Rialto, Calif.

Even the thought of his name being on the masthead for such an event has Clark pinching himself a little. Last year’s inaugural event drew more than 300 kids and Clark is expecting another sizeable turnout this Sunday.

“It’s a blessing. I’m basically like one of the hometown heroes,” Clark said. “Instead of kids seeing me on TV, they get to see me in person. Parents come out, they love it. They spend the whole day out there watching their kids. All the NFL guys come out, so it’s pretty cool.”

A four-star recruit out of Carter High, Clark played in all 39 games in three seasons at UCLA and emerged as one of the nation’s top defensive line prospects after recording 75 tackles and six sacks as a junior.

Still, life has changed quite a bit for Clark since he was taken with the 27th overall selection in 2016. He followed up a solid rookie season with a breakout sophomore campaign in 2017, recording 55 tackles and 4½ sacks in 15 games.

All 4½ sacks came during a five-game stretch in December, marking the second-most among NFL defensive tackles behind only Los Angeles Rams All-Pro Aaron Donald (five).

“I know I got four sacks at the end of the season but there’s some stuff that I left out there,” Clark said. “I had a lot of pressures and all that in the beginning of the season. Capitalize those things to sacks, I think it will help me out a lot and I’ll get that recognition that I deserve.”

Clark has done everything the Packers have expected from him and more this offseason. A year after drawing rave reviews from Head Coach Mike McCarthy for “crushing it” in the weight room, the third-year defensive tackle seamlessly has stepped into a prominent role at one of the Packers’ deepest positions.

Defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery has watched every step Clark has taken in his ascension from rookie draft pick to budding playmaker. On the eve of their third season together, Montgomery simply wants Clark to stay on his current trajectory.

“I’ve had plenty of talks with Kenny and my hopes for him are to take the next step,” Montgomery said. “He’s a pro, he goes about his business each day the way you’re supposed to. He doesn’t say much. He just goes to work and that’s what you love about him.”

Clark’s football camp is a free event and open to youth ages 6-17. Several current Packers players and former teammates of Clark at UCLA will assist at the event, which runs from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. PT. Kids can sign up at www.kc97.net or starting in-person at 8 a.m. Sunday.

“I love putting smiles on people’s faces,” said Clark, who also participated on this year’s Packers Tailgate Tour. “Of course, I’m doing it at my old high school, so being back at my old high school and seeing some of my old teachers who will be out there also will be cool. Plus, getting a better connection with my school so I can do some more things with them eventually.”

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