Mids' silent groundbreaker

navy football

Missed in historical accounts, Clark was academy's 1st black player

December 13, 2008|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,childs.walker@baltsun.com

Maurice E. "Mo" Clark did not see himself as a pioneer. And apparently, neither did anyone who chronicled the history of football at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Darryl Hill, a standout running back and receiver who went on to integrate Atlantic Coast Conference football for Maryland, had always been told by coaches and administrators that he was the academy's first black football player.

It was reported that way in dozens of articles and historical accounts.

But as it turns out, Hill, who debuted in 1961, was merely the first black Midshipman to play a down. Clark, a wide receiver from Brooklyn, N.Y., was on the roster of the 1955 plebe team. After reading a recent article about Hill, Clark's teammate, Tom Lukish, contacted the academy to correct the historical record.

"I had never heard of Maurice Clark," Navy sports information director Scott Strasemeier said.

Lukish wrote in an e-mail: "Mo was a good football player but not a great one. He played on our plebe team the entire season but, not thinking he was good enough to be a varsity football player and wanting to participate in other sports, he did not participate as a football player after our plebe year. I and all my teammates remember Mo as a good guy and we did not see him as integrating anything. We saw him as a teammate."

Lukish said Clark was also an excellent high jumper and heavyweight boxer and tried crew and basketball while at the academy. He graduated in 1959 and became an aviator.

Clark went on to a successful business career in Philadelphia but died about 10 years ago. Lukish said Clark never saw himself as a groundbreaker and liked to joke with classmates about how poorly they were all treated as plebes.

Hill remembered how little fuss was made about his arrival on campus as a black athlete. In that light, he was hardly surprised that no one remembered Clark's year in the program by the time he arrived six years later.

"The Navy," he said, "was so low-key about it."

NAVY (8-4) vs. WAKE FOREST (7-5)

EagleBank Bowl, Washington

Next Saturday, 11 a.m.

TV: ESPN

Radio: 1090 AM

Line: Wake Forest by 3

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