Clark and Lee Elected 2009 Nittany Lion Co-Captains
May 19, 2009
Clark, from Youngstown, Ohio, and Lee were elected by their teammates at the end of the spring semester, following completion of spring practice. The first summer academic session began on Monday on the University Park campus.
A Pittsburgh product, Lee served as an honorary captain in 2008. He suffered a serious knee injury 13 months again that kept him off the field until this spring.
"I'm honored to be elected a captain," commented Clark, who was selected first team All-Big Ten in 2008. "I feel like everyone looks to me, but I wanted my teammates to vote for me because they see that I'm working hard and trying to get everyone on the same page of what we have to do to in our plan to win football games."
"It's a great honor," stated Lee, who earned all-conference accolades in 2007. "I'm honored to be following the great captains and leadership we have had in the past. Daryll and I both feel there is a very good leadership within the entire squad right now and that makes it easier for us to keep everyone moving in the same direction."
In his first year as the starting signal-caller, the talented and dynamic Clark quickly demonstrated consistently strong play, leadership and toughness. He led the Nittany Lions to the 2008 Big Ten title and national championship contention with an 11-2 record. Clark was the runner-up in voting for the 2008 Silver Football, presented by the Chicago Tribune to the Big Ten's Most Valuable Player. He also was among the semifinalists for the Maxwell and Davey O'Brien awards and should be a strong candidate for both honors and other national awards this season.
Clark completed 192-of-321 attempts for 2,592 yards last year, the third-highest passing yardage season in Penn State history. A poised, accurate and strong-armed passer, he tossed 19 touchdown passes and only six interceptions in his 321 attempts for a superlative 1.86 interception percentage that ranked as the fourth-lowest in school season annals. The former Ursuline High School standout was third on the squad with 282 yards on 79 attempts (3.6) and had 10 rushing touchdowns. Among the numerous school records he broke in 2008 was the season touchdowns responsible for mark, as his 29 scores (19 passing, 10 rushing) eclipsed Michael Robinson's record of 28 in 2005.
The athletic, intelligent and instinctive Clark graduated last December, earning his telecommunications degree in 3 1/2 years. He participated in Commencement exercises this past weekend.
Having lost seven starters from the 2008 defense, the Nittany Lions will get a critical boost with return of fifth-year senior Lee. The vastly talented and instinctive player missed last season when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during an April 2008 practice. The intense and intelligent Lee will team with returning starters Navorro Bowman and Josh Hull and several gifted underclassmen to again give "Linebacker U" one of the top units in the nation.
Lee delivered a superlative junior season in 2007 that saw him record 138 tackles and earn All-Big Ten and Defensive MVP honors in the 2007 Valero Alamo Bowl. His 138 stops were No. 5 on the Penn State season list and he ranked No. 2 in tackles in the Big Ten behind teammate Dan Connor. Lee enters the season with 239 career stops, needing 17 to crack the school's Top 10, and with a very realistic chance of joining Connor and Paul Posluszny as the top three tacklers in program history.
The former Upper St. Clair High School standout was on the practice field every day last season, assisting linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden and providing tips, reminders and guidance to the unit. In addition to being a candidate for the Butkus, Rotary Lombardi and numerous post-season football awards, Lee also will be an Academic All-Big Ten candidate this year.
Penn State has earned one of the nation's Top 10 records since the start of the 2005 season, posting a 40-11 (78.4) mark, good for No. 9 nationally. The Nittany Lions won the 2008 Big Ten title, finishing No. 8 in the nation with an 11-2 record.
Entering his 44th season as head coach and 60th on the Penn State coaching staff, Coach Joe Paterno returns 37 letterwinners and 10 starters for the 2009 campaign. The Nittany Lions host Akron on Sept. 5 to open the 2009 season.