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Shawn Clark Takes Over as Appalachian State University’s Head Football Coach

New App State football coach Shawn Clark (left) and Appalachian State Director of Athletics Doug Gillin

By Nathan Ham

Through a lot of smiles, some laughs, and a few tears, Shawn Clark realized a dream coming true on Friday when he was officially announced as the new head coach for the Appalachian State Mountaineers. 

Clark, who was initially named as the interim head coach following the departure of Eliah Drinkwitz, became the fan-favorite to be the permanent head coach after a social media campaign of #Clark2020 began to circulate. 

“This is truly a great day to be a Mountaineer. I could not be more excited being up here to talk with you all today. It takes a village, not just those folks that, I want to take credit for ‘#Clark2020,’ but that was not my idea. It went viral, and we appreciate it. This is one of those days that makes you proud to get up here and take about all the history and tradition and success that is Mountaineer football and to really have the next leader identified in such a quick time frame,” said Appalachian State Director of Athletics, Doug Gillin, at Friday’s introductory press conference. “We wanted to do an efficient search. We wanted to do a quick search, but we wanted to get the right person to lead this program. We had some time to identify the key characteristics and those will always be academic integrity, we’re going to recruit student-athletes that can compete in the classroom first and foremost. We’re going to be good community partners and good campus partners. We’re going to be competitive on the field, and we’re going to provide a world-class experience for our student-athletes. Most importantly for our student-athletes, as I mentioned to them on Monday, I wanted to make sure we identify the coach in an expeditious manner so that they could get busy to go win us another bowl game. We really worked hard to make that happen fast. I will say it again. We got the right guy at the right time to lead this university.”

Clark, 44, became the 22nd head coach in Appalachian State history. His five-year contract, which runs through the 2024 season, was approved Friday afternoon by Chancellor Sheri Everts and the Appalachian State University Board of Trustees and is subject to North Carolina Board of Governors’ approval.

As Clark spoke in front of his family, former teammates and players on the current team, it certainly didn’t take long to realize the passion that Coach Clark has for the Mountaineer program. He played for the Mountaineers from 1994-98 and returned home in 2016 to take over as the offensive line coach for App State. 

“There’s a foundation that’s been established here. A foundation by all that have worn the Black and Gold. A foundation that’s spanned generations, and I am proud and humbled to be a part of the tradition that so many here respect,” said Clark. “What can you expect moving forward you may ask? Well, the answer is pretty simple. You can expect a football team that holds up our winning tradition. A football team that is tough and exceeds expectations, and a football team that stands together because, in destiny, you rarely arrive alone. In closing, my humility is a root of my success, and my passion drives me to pursue the absolute best in everything I do, and I will continue to do that. I will continue to give my all for Appalachian State University.”

Clark thanked several people for helping him get to this point, particularly former head coach Jerry Moore, who he credited with making such a huge impact on his life, on and off the football field. 

“From Coach Moore, I learned how to treat people, and that’s what it’s all about. When I retire from coaching, and all I can say is that I’m an X’s and O’s guy, then I have failed everyone I’ve coached. If they say I treated them right and that I was fair, then I learned that from coach Moore,” Clark said. 

Clark graduated from App State with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 1988 and earned a master’s degree in education from Louisville in 2003.

His wife, Jonelle, was a standout softball student-athlete at Eastern Kentucky and was inducted into EKU’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008. The Clarks have two children: a daughter, Giana, and a son, Braxton.

The Mountaineers will put the finishing touches on the 2019 season when the team faces UAB on December 21 in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.

Photos by Nathan Ham at Friday’s press conference

Photos courtesy of David C. Mayo taken at Friday’s press conference