Kenny Clark joining Packers' UCLA 'brotherhood'
When the Green Bay Packers selected Kenny Clark in the first round of the NFL draft back in April, the UCLA defensive lineman instantly heard from a couple of new teammates who also were old friends.
A few minutes before Clark’s conference call with Wisconsin media, he was FaceTiming with Packers defensive end Datone Jones and had received a phone call from backup quarterback Brett Hundley, both of whom also played for the Bruins.
Hundley and Clark were teammates in 2013 and 2014, while Jones played at UCLA from 2008 to 2012.
“I have known Datone since I was getting recruited to UCLA,” Clark said after being picked. “I’ve known Datone since the beginning of my senior year or junior year of high school. … (Brett) said there’s a big season ahead of me and be ready to work.”
UCLA has 32 players in the NFL, and the Packers are tied with the Jacksonville Jaguars for the second-most on a roster. The Minnesota Vikings have a league-high five.
Green Bay has selected a UCLA player in three of the past four drafts, with Jones going in the first round in 2013, Hundley in the fifth round in 2015 and Clark this year. The Packers also chose UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin in the fourth round in 2013.
Asked about the Packers selecting four Pac-12 players this year, West Coast area scout Sam Seale told reporters, "I think the reason so many guys got drafted from my area is that’s just the way the board fell. I might be the main guy, but the way we do it all these guys have been seen by two or three different people. So it’s not just me. I think (Packers GM) Ted (Thompson) went out, (director of player personnel) Brian (Gutekunst) went out, and also (director of football operations) Eliot (Wolf)."
Jones said he was “hyped” about the Packers picking Clark and even takes some credit for helping UCLA land him after Clark’s standout career at Carter High School in California.
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“I recruited him hard,” Jones said. “Even when I was drafted, I was recruiting him. I was on the phone, ‘Hey, Kenny man, at least come to a practice.’ I got his number and always talked to him.
“I’m excited. He is a great player. He is a really versatile player. I’m really excited and really interested to see how our defensive line coach is going to use him and develop him. He is really good, and he can be special.”
Clark hasn’t been with his new team since participating in rookie minicamp in early May because of an NFL rule that prohibits rookies from taking part in team activities until their schools are out of session.
UCLA’s spring quarter concluded Friday, which means Clark will be able to participate in the Packers’ three-day minicamp beginning Tuesday.
Although the team re-signed Letroy Guion, Clark has a chance to make an impact with Green Bay after B.J. Raji walked away from the game in March and fellow defensive tackle Mike Pennel was suspended for the first four games of the season for a violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy.
Clark was a dominant force with the Bruins, finishing his career with 164 total tackles and seven sacks in 39 games. Six of those sacks came as a junior last season, when he also had 75 tackles.
Those who know him best say Clark won’t take anything for granted when he shows up for work.
“I talk to him a lot,” Hundley said. “Kenny Clark is an awesome guy. I’ve talked to him my whole time in college, and he is going to be a great asset for this team.
“Just a hard-worker, I think that’s the easiest way to describe him. He is going to work, and whatever the coaches tell him to do, he is going to do it.”
Jones has talked to Clark a few times since Clark went back to California and often reminds him to stay calm. He wants Clark, 20, to be comfortable in Green Bay and playing in the NFL.
“At the end of the day, UCLA, we have a special brotherhood,” Jones said. “It’s great that he plays defensive line. I know all the calls and I know what to do, and all the different techniques.
“When I’m working on my stuff, he can be working on his stuff. I know what our defensive line coach Mike Trgovac expects, so I can pretty much teach him a lot. I’m not saying I’m a coach or anything, but I’m willing to help him.”
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IF YOU GO
What: Packers' three-day minicamp.
When: 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Where: Ray Nitschke Field.
Note: Session will be moved inside the Don Hutson Center and closed to the public in the event of inclement weather.