Editor’s note: the following feature story on Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ Rookie of the Year Clarence Denmark, includes a link to video of an amazing catch that earned the former Weevil credit for Canadian Football League “Play of the Year.”
Former UAM wide receiver and Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ Rookie of the Year, Clarence Denmark was the starting slot back last week for the Blue Bombers in the 2011 Gray Cup, the Candadian Football League Championship game.
Though the Blue Bombers lost the game 34-23 to the British Columbia Lions, Denmark said it was a great experience. “The atmosphere of the game was great,” he said. “This is the Canadian Super Bowl, so the fans really get into it. It was a great experience for my first year in the league.”
Denmark signed with the Bombers in May after two seasons on the preseason and practice rosters of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars but an injury in the receiving corps in Winnipeg’s season opener at Montreal opened a spot for Denmark on the active roster and he took advantage of the opportunity.
Denmark was his team’s second leading receiver this season with 818 yards on 65 catches, including five touchdowns. He also posted 81 rushing yards on seven attempts and filled in on the special teams with 137 return yards 85 on punt returns and 52 on kickoffs.
For his efforts this year, Denmark was named the Bombers Most Outstanding Rookie. “I will do whatever it takes to help us win games on offense or special teams,” he said. “It is just fun to be involved in so many different kinds of plays.”
Denmark made a big splash back in September against Toronto with a spectacular one-handed, falling-down touchdown reception in the back of the end zone video. That play was voted the TSN CFL Play of the Year.
“Being voted Play of the Year by our fans has been great,” Denmark said. “They told me about it Saturday before the game as part of the Championship Weekend events. Everyone here is so supportive. Even after the loss we had a huge crowd at the airport welcoming us home. The awesome fan support has made the transition easy for me. ”
Comparing life at home in the United State and his new home in Winnipeg, the Jacksonville, Fla. said he certainly isn’t accustomed to all of the snow he sees in Canada. “You go from 90-degree heat your whole life into blizzards and it’s a bit of a shock,” he said. “But, all of that goes away once the game starts…”
Denmark transferred to UAM in 2007 after two seasons at Mississippi Delta Community College and a brief stint at Troy University. In two seasons with the Weevils, Denmark put up 1,586 receiving yards on 91 catches. He led the team his senior season with 987 yards on 54 catches with 11 touchdowns.
Coach Matt Middleton, who was on the UAM coaching staff when Denmark played for the Weevils, said Denmark is one of the most talented players he’s ever coached. “He is naturally a gifted player, but he takes those gifts and works constantly to improve and it makes for electric results on the field,” Middleton said. “We are all thrilled with his success and proud of what he has accomplished, and will accomplish in the future.”
After graduating in 2008, Denmark spent two seasons with his hometown Jaguars, where he saw action in three preseason games but could never crack the regular season roster. He caught four passes for 31 yards for the Jags in those preseason games and spent five weeks on the practice squad between 2009 and 2010 before leaving for the CFL as a free agent.
“My time at UAM was a great preparation for my career< Denmark said. “I always knew that playing professionally was what I wanted and I want to thank the great coaching staff in Monticello for working with me and making me into the best player I could be. We had a lot of talented receivers my senior year and it says a lot for Coach Middleton and the rest of the staff that they were able to put in schemes that would spread the ball to all of us and allow everyone to shine.”
Denmark is not the first Weevil to find success north of the border. Derick Armstrong played eight seasons in the CFL for four different teams, including Winnipeg. He is a two-time CFL All-Star and played three seasons for the NFL Houston Texans from 2003-2005