Dallas Clark was always a fan favorite when the Indianapolis Colts conducted their annual summer training-camp workouts at Rose-Hulman.
During an emotional 45-minute retirement ceremony Wednesday morning at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, Clark — who spent 11 seasons as a tight end in the NFL (nine with the Colts) and signed a one-day career-ending contract with the Colts this week — admitted the obvious. The team’s fans in Terre Haute meant a lot to him too.
“The best place I loved the fans was those 90-degree days in Terre Haute. They made that 90-degree weather worth bearing,” the former University of Iowa standout reminisced.
The Colts had their training camps at Rose-Hulman from 1999 to 2009 before moving them back to their current location at Anderson University. Clark was a first-round draft pick by Indianapolis in 2003.
Team owner Jim Irsay began the retirement ceremony by remembering Clark’s many on-field accomplishments with the Colts.
“Dallas always had the courage to go over the middle. Took some of the toughest hits. Created greatness for us,” Irsay related. “[Clark] was such a playful person, a child at heart. A joy to be around. And [he] had so much courage. A great football player. Elevated [the] horseshoe to another level.”
After a video highlight package was shown, Clark gave an emotional 25-minute talk. He thanked Irsay, the team’s fans, former teammates and coaches, Colts front office and support staff and the athletic training staff.
“Your heart really does bleed blue. You changed my life when you drafted me. You’re the definition of what the horseshoe means,” he told Irsay. “[The] fans need to be thanked. They’re the best. Nothing better than seeing Colts fans after a win. Even after a loss, they’d have our back.”
His thanks also extended to former Colts general manager and team president Bill Polian, who was in charge of the team’s draft when Clark was selected.
“He saw something [in me] and I didn’t. They saw something more, bigger in me, than I saw in myself,” Clark said.
Clark joked that he hated former Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore when he first arrived in Indianapolis.
“I think him and [former offensive line coach] Howard [Mudd] drew straws on who’s getting Dallas today,” he said with a laugh. “Later on, you thank Tom Moore and Howard Mudd. Their job is to make you the best player you can be. Those guys did it.”
Clark was especially effusive when he talked about his relationships with a core group of players, including quarterback Peyton Manning, wide receiver Reggie Wayne and defensive end/outside linebacker Robert Mathis.
“We were very blessed. When you have 52 men in the locker room giving their all for one goal, that’s special,” he said. “After leaving the Colts, you realize not everyone ‘gets it.’ Such a great group of men that has helped shaped me into the man I am today.”
Clark’s voice cracked as he spoke of his close relationship with Wayne.
“Having Reggie here, I think [he] knows it, but he’s a guy I admired so much,” he said. “Just watching him work. There’s not a receiver that does what he does. He’s unique. He’s special. Thank you so much. I was hanging on to your coat tails.”
Clark broke down while talking about playing with Manning.
“I gotta thank Peyton. It’s just something about that man that really showed you how the game of football was supposed to be played,” he emphasized. “[He showed] the importance of being accountable.”
Clark closed out his press conference by summing up the nine seasons that he spent in Indianapolis as well as how his NFL career finally came to a fitting close.
“I’m a Colt. And I’m very lucky to say that,” he said smiling.
• What now? — So what’s ahead for the former Pro Bowl tight end? Clark said that he isn’t sure of his immediate plans, other than spending a lot of time with his extended family in Iowa this summer.
He does plan to return to Indianapolis in the fall, where he and his family will be residing on a permanent basis. They’ll be back just in time to enroll the oldest of their two sons, Dane, is pre-school.
• Alumni gather — Several former Indianapolis players were on hand for the retirement press conference, including fellow retirees Rick DeMulling, Justin Snow, Hunter Smith and David Thornton.
Wayne, Mathis, Adam Vinatieri and Pat McAfee were among the current Colts and former Clark teammates to watch the festivities.
• Landry not expected to practice — Safety LaRon Landry won’t practice during this week’s mini-camp.
Landry, who did not take part in the Colts’ voluntary organized team activity practices, arrived on time for the mini-camp. But he is nursing a “soft-tissue” injury, according to general manager Ryan Grigson, who did not elaborate on the nature of the injury.
“We love LaRon and like I said, we are expecting great things out of him this year,” the Colts’ GM said. “We need him right.”
• Hickman waived — The Colts waived outside linebacker Justin Hickman on Wednesday.
Hickman played in 12 games with Indianapolis in 2012 and was placed on injured reserve during the preseason last year.
He was originally signed by the Colts as a free agent Feb. 9, 2012, after spending three seasons (2009-2011) with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League.
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