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Clowney heads into SAC Hall of Fame

Click to view Mike Clowney interview

June 3, 2015 – Former Carson-Newman All-America linebacker and current defensive coordinator Mike Clowney will be inducted into the South Atlantic Conference Hall of Fame Thursday during a ceremony at the Renaissance Hotel in Asheville, N.C.

“It means a lot,” Clowney said. “To go into a Hall of Fame occupied by my teammates and (head coach) Ken Sparks, those guys mean a lot to me as people. I wouldn’t be where I am today if Coach Sparks hadn’t taken a chance on a little linebacker from Union, S.C. who wasn’t big enough, fast enough, or really good enough.

“It’s meant a lot for me to be in this program that’s been beyond football and more about life.”

Clowney enters the SAC Hall of Fame with former Mars Hill tight end David Cassell, longtime SAC football official Charles “Slim” Carriker, Tusculum cross country runner Amanda Musick Hale and Wingate University football player Dr. Russell Booker.

“He’s very deserving,” the man who recruited and hired Clowney, head football coach Ken Sparks said. “He’s been a difference maker and impacted lives wherever he’s been. He’s an impact person for the Lord. He was a quality athlete here no doubt. But he was also one of the greatest leaders we ever had on the field.”

With Clowney’s induction, the Eagles will have 13 individuals in the SAC Hall of Fame, including five affiliated with the football program.

Clowney finished his career at Carson-Newman as one of the best linebackers in school history. He ranks sixth all time with 353 career stops and still holds the single-game tackle record. He had 23 stops against Wingate in 1996.

Both Clowney and Sparks remember the matchup with Wingate vividly.

“Wingate was running an under package for passing because they couldn’t run the ball because of Mike Clowney,” Sparks said. “Before long, they couldn’t run them because he was hurting people when they caught them. Everybody wanted to find out where 33 was when the ball was snapped.”

Clowney remembers things a bit differently

“I left that contest and thought I didn’t play well,” Clowney said. “Our strong safety was a big stat guy, and he told me that I might have broken the record. I said, ‘Dude, there’s no way.’ Turned around and looked at the stat line the next morning and he was right. The biggest thing I take away from that is that you just have to play one play at a time and not worry about things.”

The performance against the Bulldogs was the culmination of a superb senior season for Clowney that was remarkable for the fact that he spent a quarter of it injured. He also had games of 15 (Edinboro), 19 (Mars Hill) and 21 (Presbyterian) tackles in his senior season. Clowney owns five of the top 15 tackle games in Carson-Newman’s annals.

However, for all of Clowney’s top performances, it’s one where native of the Palmetto State didn’t play that sticks out to Sparks.

“It was the Lenoir-Rhyne game and he couldn’t play because he was banged up still,” Sparks said. “We got through pregame warmups and he’s over to the side crying. I went up to him and asked, ‘Mike, what’s wrong?’

“He says to me, ‘Coach, I just want to play. I want to lead us, I want to help us get this done.’ He was a 185-pound stick of dynamite for us that year. He was everywhere.”

Clowney earned first-team All-America honors in 1996 from the AFCA, American Football Quarterly, the Associated Press, Don Hansen’s Football Gazette and the NCAA during the 1996 season. He is one of six Eagles to earn consensus All-America honors for C-N, a distinction he shares with Andy Hibbett (2014), Kevin Day (2012), Reggie Perkins (2003), Michael Rigdon (2001), Clay Clevenger (2000), Cedric Killings (1999) and Steve Mellon (1995).

With 153 tackles, he was named the South Atlantic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and led Carson-Newman to its first NCAA Division II National Championship game appearance during the 1996 campaign.

“We don’t go to that national championship game without Mike Clowney,” Sparks said, “He’s a quiet unassuming man that never points his finger at himself. So it’s good for us to point our finger at him and say, ‘way to go.'”

After his playing days at Carson-Newman, Clowney spent three seasons as head football coach and athletic director at Emerald High School in Greenwood, S.C. Clowney then went to Greenwood High School where he served as the defensive coordinator from 1999-2003. Under his tutelage, Greenwood won back-to-back South Carolina State Championships during 1999 and 2000.

Clowney returned to C-N and has spent the last five seasons as the program’s defensive coordinator. In his time with the defense he has seen 15 All-South Atlantic Conference performers, including nine First-Team honorees. In 2013, Clowney coached his first defensive All-American when Jaycob Coleman garnered the accolade while chasing down some of Clowney’s own records.

– by C-N Sports Information Office

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