Former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark wasn’t just the team’s union rep during his time there. He was also one of the leading voices not just in the locker room, but of the locker room, as the mouthpiece for the players speaking on their behalf. It was clear long before he retired that his life’s work would lead him into a successful second career in the media.
Not that that hasn’t already been proven for some time, but Clark recently received a tremendous token of acknowledgement of that fact, earning his first Emmy Award earlier this week. He was one of four ESPN on-air personalities to win this year, among the others being Peyton Manning. Clark won the award for Studio Analyst.
“Humbled, blessed, & grateful”, Clark shared via social media yesterday, reflecting on his Emmy win. “Let the recognition lead to re-ignition. Time to get back to work”.
A college free agent out of LSU in 2002, Clark spent eight seasons with the Steelers from 2006 through the 2013 season, earning one Pro Bowl in 2011. He was Robin to Troy Polamalu’s Batman throughout that time, a dynamic duo that worked very well together. He officially retired as a Steeler in 2015 after signing a one-day contract for that purpose.
The month after he retired, in March, he signed on with ESPN, and he has served in many roles for the sports media conglomerate since then on a variety of programs and always with integrity. While like everybody else he’s had the occasional misstep, and you might not always agree with what he has to say, he has taken this second job as seriously as he did his first one.
As should be no surprise, Clark does frequently comment on his former team, the Steelers, and he’s not afraid to levy harsh criticisms when he feels it’s warranted, even against his former coach, Mike Tomlin, in spite of the great love he has for him as both a mentor and a man.
Former Steelers head coach Chuck Noll was known for emphasizing to his players that football was just one part of their life, and that when that chapter closes, they must find a way to move on to what he called their life’s work.
That can be especially difficult in a field such as professional athletics, which has built into it a limited shelf life. You can only go as far as your body takes you to compete at the absolute highest level. Most NFL players will be looking for a new line of work by their mid- to late-20s. Clark was fortunate to play into his mid-30s.
But he has successfully transitioned into a second career better than the vast majority, becoming now officially an award-winning sports journalist, and deservedly so. It’s yet another trophy to add to his display case, which includes the Lombardi he won as a Steeler in 2008. Reaching the summit in both fields, it’s a rare feat.