Michigan freshman Frank Clark 'Tootsee Rolls' his way into Sugar Bowl spotlight
Melanie Maxwell I AnnArbor.com
Frank Clark went to the left, to the left. To the right, to the right.
He slid right into the biggest play of his life, and then let his tootsee roll.
The freshman defensive end, forced into increased duty in the Sugar Bowl due to a litany of injuries, came up with a majestic third-quarter interception of Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas. The play proved to be pivotal in the Michigan football team's 23-20 overtime win against the Hokies.
The 18-year-old credited his pregame routine for helping to get his mind right before the big game: The "Toosee Roll," a hip hop song and dance popularized in the early 1990s.
"I listen to that song before every game," Clark said in the locker room shortly after the game. "That gets me right, basically.
"That’s all I think about when I’m on the field, the Tootsee Roll. I dance a lot, and I'm just basically having fun."
He had plenty of it against the Hokies, whom Michigan beat last week to capture the school's first BCS title since the 1999 season.
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
But he saved his biggest act for the Sugar Bowl, when he leaped in front of Thomas to bat down a pass. Only, the ball also stuck to his left hand. He brought around his right hand to secure the ball against his body and complete the interception.
The freshman said it is the best play of his career, at any level.
"There hasn’t been a stage I’ve played on bigger than this," Clark said, "and making that play, in this game, I’m going to remember it for the rest of my life. Whether I never play football again, next season, whatever -- I’m always going to remember this one."
Clark played in all but one game this season, recording 10 tackles and the one interception. He is expected to play a more pronounced role next season, when Michigan loses three starting defensive linemen, including end Ryan Van Bergen.
But, he was thrust into action against Virginia Tech due to a rash of injuries. Starter Will Heininger and reserve Nathan Brink did not play at all, then Van Bergen suffered a leg injury during the game and needed longer breaks than usual.
Michigan compensated by varying its defensive alignments, rarely playing the same personnel package on consecutive plays. Clark was inserted as part of that fluidity, and he delivered.
"The whole week, I just had a good vibe about it," Clark said. "Actually, starting a few weeks back, when we started practicing against the Virginia Tech offense, I had a great vibe about the whole thing, from studying and being in tune with the whole game plan."
His interception set up Michigan's final touchdown of the game, an 18-yard pass from Denard Robinson to Junior Hemingway in the back of the end zone.
"Not too many true freshman get this kind of opportunity to play on this stage," Clark said. "The Sugar Bowl? We talkin’ about the Sugar Bowl, man."
It'll put Clark, and his tootsee, on a roll heading into the offseason.