Exe-celling at the next level

Exe-celling at the next level

By ROB LUDWIG / Special To The Corsicana Daily Sun

While the Navarro football program is off to a 4-1 start and a No. 9 ranking in the NJCAA, many of its former players are excelling at the next level.

Headlining the list of ex-Bulldogs is University of Central Oklahoma receiver Marquez Clark. The NJCAA-record holder for catches and receiving yards as a sophomore for Navarro, Clark redshirted in former Navarro coach Nick Bobeck’s program at University of Central Oklahoma.

Now Clark is the star attraction alongside running back Josh Birmingham in UCO’s offense. Clark is second in Division II football with 32 catches for 597 yards and four touchdowns this season.

Clark is also a terror in the return game, averaging 24.6 yards on 11 kickoff returns and also averaging 14.5 yards in the punt return game.

Much of Clark’s success while at Navarro and now at UCO comes from the connection he has with quarterback Adrian Nelson. Nelson has completed 83 of 145 passes for 1,192 yards this season, averaging 298 yards per game through the air for a Bronchos offense that averages 486.8 yards and 29.8 points per game.

Still looking for its first win of the season, UCO hosts No. 6 Missouri Western on Saturday.

Linebacker D.J. Simon, an all-conference performer last season for the Bulldogs, has grown into a solid performer for Old Dominion this season.

Simon is fifth on the Monarchs with 20 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. Simons also has a team-best two interceptions and is tied for second with two passes defensed.

Simon was honored with the College Football Performance awards this week after a career-high nine tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and his second pickoff.

Simon’s linebacking crewmate last season was Steve Orisakwe, who has become a star defender for Grambling this season. Orisakwe had a season-high 12 tackles in Grambling’s loss to Houston. He has 45 total tackles, three tackles for loss and one pass breakup in Grambling’s first five games.

Defensive end Arnold Blackmon was also a member of the Bulldogs’ 2012 defense and he’s taken his wares to Marshall University. An all-conference player as a sophomore for the Bulldogs, Blackmon has 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack for minus-16 yards.

Defensive backs Montell Garner and Thomas McDonald have moved on to perform well on the next level.

Garner has 16 tackles, one interception, one fumble recovery and one pass breakup through four games for South Alabama.

McDonald, a Corsicana High School graduate, started the season with a bang, recording a team-high 16 tackles in Louisiana Tech’s season-opening win against North Carolina State. McDonald is sixth on the team in tackles and has one pickoff, one forced fumble and a pass breakup.

All-American running back Traylon Shead started the season with nine carries for 22 yards for SMU before injuring his knee. He’s been cleared to play this week when the Ponies play a conference game against Rutgers.

Among the many FCS offensive linemen who started their collegiate careers at Navarro, Kansas State Tavon Rooks has perhaps the biggest future. Rooks starts at right tackle for the Wildcats and is considered a potential NFL draft pick and one of the top offensive linemen in the Big 12.

On the NFL level, former Navarro offensive tackle Michael Bowie has solidified his position as the starting right tackle for the Seattle Seahawks. Bowie was a seventh-round draft pick.