The town of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, around an eight-hour drive northwest from Northwest, is home to the Scottsbluff High School Bearcats. The Scottsbluff Bearcats have already produced one current Northwest football player and another will soon join the ranks.
Sam Clarkson is a senior offensive lineman for Scottsbluff committed to Northwest and will follow in his brother Austin Clarkson’s footsteps, who is a junior offensive lineman for Northwest. The Northwest roots don’t stop there, however, Sam Clarkson and Austin Clarkson’s mother Julie Clarkson also graduated from Northwest.
Sam Clarkson officially committed to Northwest Oct. 19, providing a bright spot on the sour day in which then-undefeated Northwest lost to Nebraska-Kearney 24-17. For Sam Clarkson, the decision to come to Northwest was an easy one.
“I kind of always knew deep down in my heart that it was a place I could see myself at, that I wanted to be at,” Sam Clarkson said.
Sam Clarkson has been playing football since he was in third grade and loves the competition and contact football brings.
“You get to kinda go out and hit some kids, let a little energy out and that’s always fun,” Sam Clarkson said. “It’s just something I have fallen in love with since the first day I played it.”
The Clarkson household was somewhat rambunctious, Sam Clarkson said, which was to be expected with two offensive linemen in one living space. Backyard football was a staple at the Clarkson household, Sam Clarkson added, and they definitely didn’t play two-hand touch.
On his official visit to Northwest, Sam Clarkson said, Northwest coach Rich Wright joked about having the Clarkson brothers square off to see who was tougher. Sam Clarkson is confident he would come out on top of that family affair.
“He’s got the 40 pounds on me right now,” Sam Clarkson said about his brother. “But I think I got the tenacity behind me.”
Sam Clarkson has used his tenacity to overcome an injury that cut his high school football playing career by 25%. He tore his ACL playing summer league basketball before his junior year. Austin Clarkson had gone through an ACL tear of his own after his senior season of football and neither of the brothers actually believed Sam Clarkson’s was torn.
“I really didn’t struggle too much moving around,” Sam Clarkson said. “I actually played in a basketball tournament like three days after I tore it.”
Sam Clarkson has no regrets about his decision to play basketball. He loves the sport almost as much as he loves football, and it helps with his agility and footwork.
The ACL tear caused him to watch his entire junior year of football from the sidelines. Sam Clarkson went to rehab almost every day instead of going to practice. He remained connected with the team but was disappointed in missing an entire season. However, there was something good that developed out of it, Sam Clarkson said.
“I kinda think I came out more athletic than I was before,” Sam Clarkson said. “I kinda look at it as a blessing in disguise.”
Sam Clarkson said the injury made him appreciate the game of football that much more, and that while it took some time for him to get comfortable on the field again, he was very thankful for the opportunity.
“It was just awesome, just after all that time off, finally getting to do what you love to do again,” Sam Clarkson said.
Judson Hall served as the Scottsbluff football coach for Sam Clarkson’s senior season and was the offensive coordinator for the six years prior. Hall said the ACL injury helped develop Sam Clarkson as a leader. Sam Clarkson served as a player-coach during his junior year. He wore a headset on the sidelines and would coach the offensive line as they came off the field. Hall said he appreciates all that Sam Clarkson did for the program and for the school as a whole.
“Sam is somebody that if you are raising sons, he is someone that you want your sons to grow up like,” Hall said.
Sam Clarkson has an incredible work ethic on and off the field, which will help him excel at the next level, Hall said. Scottsbluff’s football team excelled at its current level. For the past two years, Scottsbluff was state runner-up, an experience which Hall thinks will also help Sam Clarkson at the next level at a program that has lofty goals like Northwest.
“Not settling and being willing to work for those high expectations is something that Sam can take from our program, and hopefully it suits him well at Northwest,” Hall said.
Sam Clarkson, and Julie Clarkson, are ready for him to get out of Scottsbluff and join his brother at Northwest.
“Me and my mom, we always joke that we can’t wait to get away from each other,” Sam Clarkson said. “She’s tired of doing my laundry.”
It will be difficult living so far away from his parents and friends, Sam Clarkson added. He said the transition will be easier for him though because he already knows people through his brother.
Sam Clarkson is eager to get to Northwest and get experience in a college atmosphere. He said he is looking forward to playing with his brother and all his new teammates, and he has acquainted himself with the lingo.
“Maryville is a special place,” Sam Clarkson said. “I’m just excited to live in the ’Ville for a while.”