While Brown and Kelly had immense talent, their success was in part attributable to an excellent Browns offensive line.
One outstanding member of Cleveland’s offensive line who played with Brown and Kelly was right offensive tackle Monte Clark.
Over Clark’s seven seasons with Cleveland from 1963 to 1969, Brown and Kelly led the NFL in various rushing categories.
In addition, Clark helped the Browns achieve team success, including winning Cleveland’s last NFL championship in 1964.
— Tom Bruch (@trbruch) July 2, 2017
We take a look at the life of Monte Clark – before, during, and after his NFL playing career.
The Early Years Through High School
Monte Dale Clark was born on January 24, 1937 in Kingsburg, California.
Kingsburg is located in central California, about 20 miles from Fresno.
When Clark was growing up there, Kingsburg had a population of approximately 1,500 to 3,000 people.
Clark attended Kingsburg High School, graduating in 1954.
He played varsity football at Kingsburg High School for three years from 1952 to 1954.
During those three years, Kingsburg High School scored 485 points, allowed only 129 points, and won every game except for one loss and one tie.
In Clark’s final high school game (with him serving as team captain) in 1954, Kingsburg High School won the league championship, with a 55-0 shutout victory.
Clark played both offensive tackle and defensive tackle in high school.
He was the Most Valuable Player of the first Fresno City-County All-Star football game.
High school teammate (right halfback and later a county sheriff) Bob Wiley recalled:
“Monte was an outstanding tackle. [H]e could play offense or defense [and] was very aggressive. He was a big, strong guy who could move fast. He was also a good person, a good student and a good young man.”
Another former high school teammate who spoke favorably of Clark was (quarterback) Ed Mascarin, who stated:
“I think 90 percent of the plays went across right tackle. [Clark] was a great player and it showed later on in his life, and he was a good person.”
Clark also was on the baseball, basketball, and track teams at Kingsburg High School.
Recruited also by such schools as Stanford, California at Berkeley, Pacific, and Fresno State, Clark ultimately accepted a scholarship to attend Southern California (USC) for college.
Clark experienced some “culture shock” when he first arrived in Los Angeles to attend USC.
“I’ll never forget the first time I drove down to enroll in school. I was on the big freeways like the Harbor Freeway for so long I thought – it couldn’t plausibly be this far to USC. After getting lost in China Town, I finally got back on the ‘Harbor’ then eventually pulled up and parked in front of my dorm – ‘Marks Hall’. I sat in the car quite a while wondering should I get out, go in and make a go of this whole thing or head back to Kingsburg if I could find it.”
Fortunately, Clark became comfortable with his surroundings and stayed in Los Angeles.
At USC, Clark was a three-year letterman in football from 1956 to 1958, principally playing right tackle.
USC had an 8-2 record in 1956, including a 44-20 win over Texas on September 22, 1956, a 13-6 victory over Wisconsin on October 6, 1956, a 10-7 defeat of UCLA on November 24, 1956, and a 28-20 win over Notre Dame on December 1, 1956.
The Trojans were ranked 18th in the nation in the final Associated Press poll in 1956.
Clark was a starter in 1957 and 1958.
In 1957, USC posted a 1-9 record.
Clark was a co-captain for USC in 1958.
USC had a 4-5-1 record in 1958, including a 21-0 shutout of Oregon State (then ranked 12th in the nation by the Associated Press) on September 19, 1958.
After his years as a Trojan, Clark headed to the NFL to play professional football.
The Pro Football Years
Clark was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth round of the 1959 NFL draft.
He was the 41st overall pick.
As a rookie in 1959 for San Francisco, Clark played in all 12, and started 10, regular season games at right defensive tackle.
He recovered a fumble in 1959.
In 1960, Clark, at right defensive tackle, played in all 12, and started 11, regular season games.
He returned a punt for 15 yards in 1960.
Clark’s play helped the 49ers defense lead the NFL in the 1960 regular season in fewest points allowed (205).
In 1961, Clark played in all 12, and started 10, regular season games at right defensive tackle.
Clark recovered a fumble in 1961.
San Francisco had a winning record (but failed to make the playoffs) in each of Clark’s three years there, posting records of 7-5 in 1959, 7-5 in 1960, and 7-6-1 in 1961.
Clark only played with San Francisco for three years because of an injury.
“I injured my neck (in [my] last season in San Francisco). Ruptured a disk. They didn’t think I was going to be able to play anymore. Neither did I. But I was able to play another eight years, sometimes with a lot of pain. But I learned to kind of live with it.”
On September 10, 1962, San Francisco traded Clark to the Dallas Cowboys for a draft pick.
While Clark only played one year with Dallas, it was a key year in Clark’s NFL career, as Cowboys coach Tom Landry changed Clark’s position from right defensive tackle to right offensive tackle.
About the move from defense to offense, Clark said:
“Becoming an offensive lineman forced me to see the game differently, to think about it more strategically.”
In 1962, playing for Dallas, Clark played in all 14, and started 10, regular season games at right offensive tackle.
The Cowboys had a 5-8-1 record in 1962.
Clark only spent one year with Dallas, as he was traded to the Cleveland Browns for All-Pro and Pro Bowl guard Jim Ray Smith on April 30, 1963.
In 1963, Clark (at a height of six feet and six inches (the talent player on Cleveland) and a weight of 265 pounds) played in eight, but did not start any, regular season games for Cleveland.
His playing time was limited by a knee injury.
Clark was part of a Browns offensive line that helped Jim Brown lead the NFL in the 1963 regular season in rushing yards (1,863), rushing touchdowns (12), average yards per rushing attempt (6.4), and longest rush (80 yards).
Brown rushed for more than 100 yards in nine regular season games in 1963.
Cleveland had a 10-4 record in 1963, but the team failed to make the playoffs.
Clark contributed to Cleveland’s offense ranking in the NFL in the 1963 regular season third in points scored (343), fifth in total passing and rushing yards (4,856), third in passing touchdowns (27), third in fewest sacks allowed (25), first in rushing yards (2,639), tied for fourth in rushing touchdowns (15), and first in average yards per rushing attempt (5.7).
In 1964, Clark started his first games with the Browns, as he played in all 14, and started six, regular season games at right offensive tackle.
With Clark as part of the offensive line for Cleveland, Jim Brown led the NFL in the 1964 regular season in rushing yards (1,446) and average yards per rushing attempt (5.2).
Cleveland won the NFL East Division title in 1964, with a 10-3-1 record.
Clark’s play helped the Browns offense rank in the NFL in the 1964 regular season second in points scored (415), third in total passing and rushing yards (4,486), first in passing touchdowns (28), second in fewest sacks allowed (28), third in rushing yards (2,163), tied for fifth in rushing touchdowns (14), and first in average yards per rushing attempt (5.0).
The Browns met the Baltimore Colts in the 1964 NFL championship game on December 27, 1964.
With Clark starting the game at right offensive tackle, Jim Brown rushed for 114 yards and Browns quarterback Frank Ryan threw three touchdown passes to Browns flanker Gary Collins (who had 130 receiving yards).
Cleveland shutout the Colts 27-0, winning the first NFL championship for the Browns in nine years.
One of the keys to the Cleveland victory was the play of Clark against Colts future Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Gino Marchetti.
Clark said after the game:
“I knew I was playing one of the best. He’s strong and tough, and I had to have some help occasionally, but I’m pleased with my contribution. This was a real team effort, offense and defense. . . . The Lord certainly has been good to us.”
In 1965, Clark played in all 14, and started 11, regular season games at right offensive tackle.
Clark was part of a Browns offensive line that helped Jim Brown lead the NFL in the 1965 regular season in rushing yards (1,544), rushing touchdowns (17), and longest rush (67 yards).
The Browns, with an 11-3 record, again won the NFL East Division title in 1965.
Clark helped the Cleveland offense rank in the NFL in the 1965 regular season tied for fifth in points scored (363), tied for fourth in touchdown passes (23), tied for fifth in fewest sacks allowed (31), first in rushing yards (2,331), tied for third in rushing touchdowns (19), and first in average yards per rushing attempt (4.9).
Cleveland played the Green Bay Packers in the 1965 NFL championship game on January 2, 1966.
Clark started the game at right offensive tackle, but Green Bay defeated the Browns 23-12.
In 1966, Clark played in 12, and started seven, regular season games at right offensive tackle.
Cleveland, with a 9-5 record, failed to make the playoffs in 1966.
Clark’s play helped the Browns offense rank in the NFL in the 1966 regular season second in points scored (403), second in total passing and rushing yards (5,071), tied for fifth in passing yards (2,905), first in passing touchdowns (33), tied for second in fewest sacks allowed (29), first in rushing yards (2,166), tied for third in rushing touchdowns (18), and first in average yards per rushing attempt (5.2).
In 1967, Clark played in 13, and started 10, regular season games at right offensive tackle.
Clark was part of a Cleveland offensive line that helped Leroy Kelly lead the NFL in the 1967 regular season in rushing yards (1,205), rushing touchdowns (11), and average yards per rushing attempt (5.1).
With a 9-5 record, Cleveland won the NFL Century Division title in 1967.
Clark helped the Browns offense rank in the NFL in the 1967 regular season first in rushing yards (2,139) and first in average yards per rushing attempt (4.8).
Cleveland advanced to play the Dallas Cowboys in a divisional round playoff game on December 24, 1967.
Clark started the game at right offensive tackle, but Cleveland lost to Dallas 52-14.
For the only time in his NFL career, Clark started all 14 regular season games at right offensive tackle in 1968.
With Clark at right offensive tackle, the Browns scored 35 or more points in four consecutive regular season games in 1968.
In addition, Clark helped Leroy Kelly lead the NFL in the 1968 regular season in rushing yards (1,239) and rushing touchdowns (16).
Kelly rushed for more than 100 yards in seven regular season games in 1968.
Cleveland, with a 10-4 record, won the NFL Century Division title in 1968.
Clark’s play helped the Browns offense rank in the NFL in the 1968 regular season third in points scored (394), second in total passing and rushing yards (4,889), fourth in passing yards (2,858), second in passing touchdowns (27), first in fewest sacks allowed (21), third in rushing yards (2,031), third in rushing touchdowns (20), and second in average yards per rushing attempt (4.5).
In their first playoff game in 1968, the Browns met the Dallas Cowboys on December 21, 1968.
With Clark starting at right offensive tackle, Cleveland avenged its 1967 playoff loss to the Cowboys, defeating Dallas 31-20.
The following week, on December 29, 1968, the Browns played the Baltimore Colts in the 1968 NFL championship game.
Clark again started the game at right offensive tackle, but the Colts defeated Cleveland 34-0.
In 1969, Clark played in 14, and started 13, regular season games at right offensive tackle.
For the fifth time in six seasons, Cleveland won its division title in 1969, winning the NFL Century Division title with a 10-3-1 record.
Clark helped Cleveland’s offense rank in the NFL in the 1969 regular season third in points scored (351), fifth in total passing and rushing yards (4,428), tied for second in passing touchdowns (24), third in fewest sacks allowed (20), fifth in rushing yards (1,788), and tied for first in rushing touchdowns (17).
In the 1969 playoffs, Cleveland first played the Dallas Cowboys on December 28, 1969.
Clark started at right offensive tackle, as the Browns defeated Dallas 38-14.
Cleveland then advanced to the 1969 NFL championship game against the Minnesota Vikings on January 4, 1970.
Clark again started at right offensive tackle, but Cleveland lost to the Vikings 27-7.
The Vikings game turned out to be Clark’s last game as an NFL player, as he retired before the beginning of the 1970 regular season.
The Years After the NFL
Clark was married to Charlotte from 1957 to 2009.
He had three sons, Bryan, Randy, and Eric, and a daughter, Shelly (who died at a very young age from leukemia).
While Clark’s NFL playing career ended in 1969, he remained active in football after his retirement as a player.
It was a job offer from Miami Dolphins future Pro Football Hall of Fame head coach Don Shula in 1970 for Clark to be a coach for Miami that in part encouraged Clark to retire as a player.
Clark served as an offensive line coach and offensive coordinator for the Dolphins from 1970 to 1975 and contributed to the Dolphins winning Super Bowls VII and VIII.
Monte Clark was a master at getting the most out of his players. Clark developed the NFL’s best offensive line out of a group of primarily rejects from other teams. Larry Little, Jim Langer, Bob Kuechenberg all castoffs pic.twitter.com/9MOnT3AnbL
— Paul Howard (@PaulHoward_IMIT) January 24, 2021
On January 13, 1976, Clark was hired as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
San Francisco posted a record of 8-6 in 1976.
After a dispute over personnel authority with General Manager Joe Thomas, Clark was fired by San Francisco on April 6, 1977.
On January 11, 1978, Clark was hired as head coach of the Detroit Lions.
In Clark’s seven seasons as head coach there, Detroit had records of 7-9 in 1978, 2-14 in 1979, 9-7 in 1980, 8-8 in 1981, 4-5 in 1982 (making the playoffs), 9-7 in 1983 (winning the NFC Central division title), and 4-11-1 in 1984.
— Old Time Football 🏈 (@Ol_TimeFootball) January 25, 2021
Clark was fired by the Lions on December 19, 1984.
In later years, Clark also worked as director of player personnel for the Miami Dolphins from 1990 to 1994, offensive line coach for the Dolphins in 1995, assistant coach at California at Berkeley in 1998, and advisor for the Detroit Lions from 1999 to 2008.
Clark, suffering from cancer, died on September 16, 2009 at the age of 72.
In 1968, Clark was inducted into the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame.
In addition, in 2005, Clark’s high school jersey was retired by Kingsburg High School.
There may a tendency to dismiss Clark’s playing career because he never received Pro Bowl or All-Pro honors.
However, Browns fans should not ignore all that was accomplished while Clark was part of the offensive line for Cleveland from 1963 to 1969 – three regular season rushing yards titles for Jim Brown, two regular season rushing yards titles for Leroy Kelly, consistent high rankings in various regular season offensive statistics, seven winning records, five division titles, four NFL championship games, and one NFL championship.
For his role in helping Brown, Kelly, and such other Cleveland offensive skill position players as Frank Ryan, Gary Collins, Bill Nelsen, Paul Warfield, and Milt Morin, achieve success, Monte Clark should be remembered as one of the best offensive tackles in Cleveland Browns history.