FRISCO, Texas - You've heard the age-old saying that the "rich get richer" and, at this point, Dan Quinn and the Dallas Cowboys defense is the equivalent of watching Scrooge McDuck swim around in his money bin. Only one day after trading for veteran run-stopper Johnathan Hankins, the club activated rookie fifth-round pick Damone Clark to the active roster.
Clark began his rookie offseason with the Cowboys on the non-football injury (NFI) list after undergoing spinal fusion surgery in March - to repair an issue discovered at the 2022 NFL Combine by, guess who? The very same Cowboys who added him to their roster in April with the 176th-overall selection.
He'll join a linebacker room that is overflowing with talent, but will likely have to first acclimate to professional game speed and impact via special teams, in the capable hands of John "Bones" Fassel.
When he's ready to be unleashed for defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, it'll be interesting to see how the equation is solved, considering the prowess of Micah Parsons, the steady play of four-time Pro Bowl linebacker Anthony Barr and the improved impact of Leighton Vander Esch.
The three have made it nearly impossible for Clark's former LSU teammate Jabril Cox to carve his way into the rotation, but the former made a name for himself in the collegiate ranks by being one of the best run-stopping LBs in the country.
A former First-Team All-SEC (2021) talent and national champion (2019), the 6-foot-2, 245 pound native of New Orleans racked up an eye-popping 135 combined tackles (15 for loss), 5.5 sacks, three pass break ups, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one interception in 12 games last season; and he did it despite the neck issue that wasn't yet discovered.
"I played the whole year [at LSU] and felt perfectly fine," he said in May. "I went out and got a second opinion, and Dr. [Robert] Watkins said the same thing," Clark said. "It's crazy that this is the team that drafted me. So I already feel comfortable here."
There were some/many who believed this would be a redshirt season for Clark, but his progression has him in position to potentially make an impact in two phases for the Cowboys before the 2022 season is wrapped and in the books. From Quinn to Fassel to head coach Mike McCarthy to Executive Vice President and Director of Player Personnel Stephen Jones, and many others, there has been nothing short of a parade of praise aimed toward Clark for both his work ethic during rehabilitation and for what he's likely to add to an already stout defense.
"Give our medical staff credit … [Clark] has exceeded all expectations," said Jones last week. "[He's] a guy we're really excited about and I do think he'll be playing for us this year. In terms of his role and how much? That'll evolve. … Boy, we're fired up about what he brings to the table.
"That LSU tiger is gonna shine before it's over."
For his part, Clark is simply happy to be in North Texas, preparing to make his eventual debut for the team that took a risk on him in April when no one else did/would.
"I'm just happy they found it, and Dallas still picked me up," said Clark. "I'm happy to be here."