Head coach Shawn Clark stresses safety of players and staff, discusses shift of focus towards recruiting amid coronavirus outbreak

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Courtesy App State Athletics

App State head coach Shawn Clark watches his team stretch during the first week of spring practices.

Silas Albright, Sports Editor

If everything was normal right now, App State students would be finishing up their first week of classes after spring break. App State football players would be on campus following their training and practice schedules. App State football coaches would be evaluating their team and working on getting ready for the start of the 2020 season. But everything’s not normal.

“Our first priority was our players and our staff,” head coach Shawn Clark said. “We made sure we communicated with our players last Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday (to) let them know what was going on. And then with our staff, I made sure to let those guys know if they needed to be with their families, to get out of here.”

With practices and classes canceled, Clark and his staff have shifted their focus to the recruiting trail.

“This past week has been nothing but recruiting, trying to get a jump start on getting offers out and et cetera, not knowing what the future’s going to hold here in the next few days,” Clark said. 

After the changes and cancelations of classes and practices were communicated to his players, Clark said the next step was making sure they had the necessary materials to keep up with their academics. 

“We’re following proper protocol from the university (and) Chancellor (Sheri) Everts to do all we can to make sure our guys have all the necessary things they have to to be successful,” Clark said. “We’re working on laptops, Zoom video conferences with professors just to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible (without) knowing what’s really going to happen.”

The coronavirus pandemic has forced the Mountaineers to miss their last week of spring practices, but when asked about the impact it had on the team, Clark talked about how some things are just bigger than football.

“In the big picture, football’s just a small part of what we do, especially in times like this,” Clark said. “You really realize the importance of the safety of others, the safety of our town, the safety of everyone in the state of North Carolina. In the big picture, we want to make sure our players are safe, everyone in the town of Boone is safe. We’ll catch up on those practices in August.” 

With the start of football season still nearly six months away, there’s hopefully time for the coronavirus to be dealt with. 

“Football has a time and place. When we get there, when it all clears, has been checked off by the government and we’re good to go, then we’ll go full speed ahead,” Clark said. “We’ll deal with football when football is back in session.”