Washington Football

Washington Football

When newly signed New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton entered the NFL in 2011, he offered a rare combination of size, athleticism and arm strength that few other passers in league history had, if any.

In fact, when former Redskins safety Ryan Clark first played against Newton in the NFL when the signal-caller was a rookie, seeing the quarterback's size made the veteran question how much longer he could play in the league. 

"Cam Newton is what started me going into TV," Clark said on ESPN's Get Up on Wednesday, only half-joking. "I walked past him, Newton's in his first year...Cam Newton was walking on the field, I was walking out of the locker room. They're on opposite sides. Me and Newton cross, and I said to myself, 'Welp, if they're going to start making quarterbacks like this, I need to start working on my second career.'"

The safety, who was a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers at the time, recalled a defensive backs meeting during the week leading up to the game versus Carolina where he and fellow safety Troy Polamalu did not know how to prepare for the then-rookie Newton.

"The dude is just different," Clark said on Newton. "When you're sitting in your defensive back room and you look over at Troy Polamalu and the question isn't 'How are we going to stop him?' When Troy Polamalu looks at you and you look at him and he goes, 'How are we going to tackle Cam?' that is an issue. Those are the issues you have every week when you're playing against somebody like that."

 

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Thankfully for Clark and the Steelers' defense, the contest was a preseason one, so Pittsburgh escaped having to face the talented rookie for an entire game. One week later, Newton became the first quarterback to throw for 400-plus yards in his NFL debut.

After that season, Clark said he reached out to ESPN vice president of production Seth Markman and analyst Trey Wingo, which resulted in an internship with the company that summer. Throughout the final years of his NFL career, Clark would make guest appearances on ESPN shows when time permitted.

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Clark, who had an impressive 13-year career in the NFL, retired three years after first facing Newton in February of 2015. One month later, was hired full-time as an ESPN NFL analyst, his occupation ever since.

"I was built as an inferior human," Clark jokingly said. "When they started drafting aliens to play quarterback, it was time for me to do something else, which I was okay with."

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