They say in Texas that football is king. It’s probably way more than that, it’s more like a religion or a way of life. That’s true in a lot of areas of the United States, mostly in the South, but also in Ohio and Pennsylvania. When football is taken so seriously the extraordinarily talented type of players will emerge and will become larger than life. These guys are almost legendary.
Kenneth Hall, from Sugar Land, Texas comes to mind. Hall became known as the “Sugar Land Express” and he is still talked about nationally even though he played High School Football more than 60 years ago. He put up such mind boggling stats that lasted almost 60 years before they finally got broken in 2012 by a Running Back out of Florida. His all time career rushing yards stood for seemingly forever and some thought his records would never be broken.
There are plenty of others, like Emmitt Smith from Pensacola, Florida who dominated at every level of football. Or, Joe Namath from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania who was the very first big money guy and changed the game of football forever. Or, Doak Walker from Dallas Highland Park. Then, there’s Dick Butkus from Chicago or Earl Campbell from Tyler, Texas. There are way too many guys to list them all. But, these guys were great college players and made All American teams, some of them won Heisman Trophies and they were high NFL draft picks and made All Pro. These guys were legends and household names in this country. They will never be forgotten.
I first heard about Clark Broaddus when he was a junior in high school. I am the same age as Clark, but was a grade ahead of him in school. I grew up in another town, but I got to see him play once in a playoff game.
Clark Broaddus went to Brazoswood High School in Clute, Texas. Brazoswood opened for the first time in 1969 and they played their first varsity schedule in 1970. Brazoswood went 10-0 in their first varsity season which is a pretty incredible task. Unfortunately, they ran into a buzz saw in their very first playoff game when they had to play Austin Reagan High School. Reagan had just won state titles in 1967 and 1968. After beating Brazoswood, they went on to win another in 1970.
Not to be denied, Brazoswood would win it’s own state title in 1974. They won or shared their district title every year from 1970 to 1977. It wasn’t just in football, as Brazoswood pretty much dominated everything in their area in those years. I am sure all the other schools in their district or in the area hated them out of jealousy. But, they were good in not only football but also baseball, track, softball and non sports competitions like debate and Choir and band. Just a dominating school with a lot of fight and spirit in those years and the football teams were loaded with talent.
Linebacker David Hodge went to the University of Houston and did very well. Offensive Guard Alan Williams and Defensive End Kenneth McCune signed with the University of Texas and both played there. Quarterback Mike Brannon signed with Baylor and played there some. Gary Moten signed with SMU and Dwayne Rhodes went to Arkansas. Quite a few other Brazoswood players went to various smaller colleges or Junior Colleges. The best of them all was Clark Broaddus who could have gone anywhere in the country he wanted.
After winning state in 1974, Brazoswood lost a lot of seniors and was in rebuilding mode in 1975. A Rebuilding year for them in those years wound up being a 10-2 season, which just illustrates what kind of program they had. The junior class this season was described as the best class of athletes to ever walk through the halls of Brazoswood High School. They finished the season at 9-1 and some of the younger players like Clark Broaddus were called up to the varsity for the playoffs. Brazoswood got by Austin Travis 21-12 in their Bi-district game and then lost to McAllen 20-6 in the regional round. Not that bad for a rebuilding year.
1976 was supposed to be the year that Brazoswood won state and they were ranked #1 in the preseason. They lost to Houston Memorial early on but then came on strong and destroyed the district competition. They beat Austin Anderson 30-7 in Bi-district and then spanked Corpus Christi Miller 41-10. In the state quarterfinals, they met their match in San Antonio Churchill and got beat 17-0.
They were a senior laden team and as already mentioned a lot of them went on to play college football, but the best of the bunch was easily junior Clark Broaddus. He really arrived on the national scene in 1976 and made all state at Center and at Defensive Tackle. He was a two way star and the nation would take notice.
Parade Magazine was a pretty big deal back in those days. The 1976 Parade Magazine All American Team was published and they had picked 50 high school players that year. 49 of those guys were seniors, including the outstanding Ronnie Lott who was possibly the greatest Safety to ever play the game at USC and later the San Francisco 49ers. The team also included 1 junior and that was Clark Broaddus of Brazoswood High School. Not many juniors ever made that team and Clark was one of the very few. That’s how good of a prospect he was.
This was 1976 and 1977, the internet was not even a dream back in those days. Colleges sent out letters and tried to call the recruits. There was no Facebook or Twitter or any other of the crazy things we have today, where recruiters can get in touch with kids and begin recruiting them. There were no early commitments and the college recruiters didn’t even make an attempt to get a player to commit to their school before their senior football season was over. Clark, like so many blue chip recruits in his time, got mail. He got tons of mail. He would literally get stacks of mail weekly and even daily from various colleges around the country inviting him to begin looking or thinking about their schools. There were no internet recruiting services or rankings, but if there had been, Clark would have been a 5 star recruit. He could have gone to Notre Dame, USC, Alabama, Texas, Michigan, Ohio State, or anywhere else he wanted to go. He was an up and coming star.
Also different in those days were high schools’ equipment. There were no free weight gyms or fancy equipment of any kind. Most schools, including Brazoswood, used a universal weight system which is more suited for toning or other types of workouts than bulking up. High school coaches worked their kids with the intention of conditioning, and agility. They didn’t have the incredible free weight gyms back then that they do now. Steroids were around but not that widely used at the time. Dietary supplements and other advantages were still some time away. You just didn’t see the 6-4, 300 pound guys back then or even the 250 pound guys much in high school. Ralph Neely was a 6-6, 260 pound Offensive Tackle for the Dallas Cowboys and was a perennial All Pro and considered huge. Clark Broaddus was a 6-3 to 6-4, 230 pound 16 year old at the beginning of the 1976 season and then 17 years old by the end. He had not even, as of yet, come close to reaching his full potential.
There is the question of whether a recruit will pan out or be a bust at the college level. There are many reasons why a blue chip never develops into a star player in college. One of them is injury which can hardly be helped. Call it bad luck. Some guys are not committed to school and flunk out. Some like to party and get in trouble with the law. Others, are plain lazy and don’t want to do the work or some just don’t like football all that much when it really comes down to it.
The reason I believe Clark Broaddus would have been a star is because from all accounts he was a good guy. He was very nice and respectful to those around him and treated others correctly. But, when he put his helmet on, he was dedicated to being the best player he could be. He had tremendous work ethic and he had a lot of heart. Clark’s teammate and friend, Bruce Moon, described trying to block Clark as like ‘charging into a meat grinder’. Clark was tough, he was hard nosed and he was very coachable. There’s no way that I would ever believe that Clark Broaddus would have been anything other than a big star at the next level due to his attitude and he possibly even may have done well at the level after that. His future was extremely bright.
Clark Broaddus was living the dream. It was the Spring of 1977 and he was an All American football player, he was doing well in school, had a nice girlfriend, was a well liked and popular football star around school, and he was a top discus thrower in track. In fact, he was almost as highly thought of as a discus thrower as he was a football player and could have gone anywhere in track and field as well.
Clark had been a top discus thrower as a Freshman and a Sophomore. He had high expectations as a junior in the discus, but suddenly his throws weren’t traveling as far as he was expecting. He was a little disappointed with his discus performance and he had set goals for himself that Spring.
According to everyone, Clark was running on the track in the Spring of his junior year and he strangely fell and broke his jaw. Considering his athletic ability and his toughness, this was really strange.
I personally didn’t know about Clark’s illness until the summer of 1977 when I bought a Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine. Texas Football has a small rundown of every high school in the state of Texas. They have a little more info on the bigger schools in the top class of 4A football than they do about the Class A high schools. I flipped through the magazine as I first bought it and ran across the article on Brazoswood and I was stunned.
The exact wording in DCTF was: “A tragedy of first dimension involving one of the truly outstanding schoolboy football talents both in the state and nation prevents Brazoswood from being even stronger. As a junior, Clark Broaddus, a 6-4,230 pound center and linebacker, won prep All-America and all-state honors. But a serious illness will keep him out of competition this season and could end his career.”
The magazine was correct. Clark Broaddus had leukemia and he was done with football.
I never actually met Clark. I was just an admirer from afar as I was with so many football legends. I hope this article or blog doesn’t bring up too many sad memories for his family or his close friends. But, I felt like it needed to be told. I don’t feel like a super talented kid like Clark Broaddus should be forgotten, and that would also be true even if he was not very good at sports.
I want people to remember Clark Broaddus for what he was and for what he could have and should have been.
I hate cancer. Cancer took a big strong and talented kid like Clark Broaddus, and ate him up until he passed away. Obviously, I was not there, but they say that Clark went from around 230 pounds down to barely over a 100. Even more sadly, he left this earth the night of his junior/senior prom.
I desperately want the name Clark Broaddus to be remembered. He is worth remembering.
Thanks to Chester Payne, Mark Terrasa, Bill Meyer, Dane McLamore, Thayla Tucker, Delores Chacon-Navarro, and Kelly Brantley for their help in researching this.
Special thanks to Bruce Moon for providing so much information and even more special thanks to Serena Kirby Formby for linking me up with so much info and so many people. Serena Kirby Formby is the most helpful person I have ever encountered and a two time cancer survivor.