A Shriner himself, Auburn University punter Steven Clark was thrilled to be invited to play in the 89th East-West Shrine Game.
“My invitation was extremely gratifying and unexpected,” said Clark. “It was truly a blessing for me and my family. The East-West Shrine Game is unlike any other bowl game out there. It gives the players a truly meaningful experience. It gave us all the chance to learn a lot more about the Shriners Hospitals for Children and caring for the kids. I can guarantee you the hospital visit was a special day for all the players.”
Considered one of the best punters in the nation, Clark’s ability played an important role in Auburn’s spectacular 2013 season. His skills proved to be a valuable weapon for Auburn’s offense and defense, downing nine punts inside the 10-yard line in the final four games, including five inside the 5-yard line. Auburn went on to play for the BCS National Championship where Clark averaged 43.2 yards per punt against Florida State. He also tied his longest punt of the season (58 yards) and had five of his six punts downed inside 20, four inside the 10.
The four main criteria for a punter are distance, hang-time, accuracy and consistency. What’s the one thing nobody wants from their punter? A bad punt – there is zero tolerance for bad punts. You can kick it too far but don’t flub it when it’s needed. A Ray Guy Award semifinalist for the third straight season, Clark had only five punts returned this year in 56 attempts. Only 22 of 207 of his career punts have been returned (10.6 percent) for an average return of 5.4 yards.
"I'd say my biggest thing is consistency," said Clark. "That's what they want - they want to know what they're getting every time you step out on the field. That's what I want, too. Punting is all about mechanics. I want to be as consistent as I can be, and the ideal thing is to put the ball right where I want it every single time."
Jerry Glanville, Clark’s (East Team) head coach in the 89th East-West Shrine Game, thinks Denver is a good place for Clark. “The way he kicks the ball his hang time will be off the charts in Denver’s Mile High Stadium. He has all the skills to make it,” said Glanville. “He’s also a big time holder for extra points. No punter makes it in the NFL unless he’s a good holder. We worked real hard with him on that during game week.”
The East-West Shrine Game was an invaluable experience for Clark.
“The East-West Shrine Game was a great experience. It’s hard to get everybody organized for a game in a week, but the coaches did a great job. They shared a lot about what it takes to make it at the next level, and gave us a little taste of what’s important to NFL coaches,” said Clark.
“I’m really excited to be in Denver concentrating on my craft. I’m learning a lot working with Britton Colquitt (five year veteran with the Broncos). He is an excellent punter, and he’s helped me with my mechanics,” said Clark. “I’m looking forward to using this opportunity to see how far I can get with the abilities God blessed me with, whether it’s Denver or somewhere else.”