ARLINGTON, Texas — With the majority of defensive starters sitting out the preseason debut on Saturday, the moment to shine was for second-year linebacker Damone Clark.
Clark started the game at middle linebacker and was an athletic and brute force in the opening quarter against Jacksonville's first-team. The reps allowed Clark to settle back in ahead of a potential breakout season just one year after dealing with injury during his rookie training camp.
"It felt great just being back out there," Clark said. "I talk a lot about how this time last year I was out on the side, so I'm just blessed to be able to go in and have fun."
Clark was on the ball on almost every defensive play, flying sideline-to-sideline to make his impact defensively. That athleticism, Clark says, falls in line with what the defensive staff wants for the entire unit.
"I'm used to doing that," he said. "For me, it wasn't nothing new. It was just me going out there and playing within the scheme, not just going out there and just doing my own stuff. Trusting the call and flying to the ball. That's something I know I put on tape all the time, running to the ball."
With Leighton Vander Esch and Malik Hooker both sitting out on Saturday, green dot responsibilities fell into Clark's lap. That authority allowed him to build off of confidence that was laid down in his college days.
"It brought me back to my LSU days," he said. "Everybody is looking at you for the call. I was confident. I gotta take a look at the film, correct some things, but that's part of football."
Clark's strong preseason debut will lay the foundation for what's to come in year two for the LSU product, as he moves forward with valued reps under his belt and a renewed confidence about his 2023 potential.
"It's just practice that's heading into the season," he said. "It doesn't matter how long it is, I'm just happy to go out there and get the reps because I need the reps to get better."