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Former Bears adjusting to life on outside of the yard lines

Published: Monday, Feb. 11, 2013 9:54 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — Thursday afternoons used to involve the installation of third-down strategies. Now, Desmond Clark utilizes those days to construct a different type of offensive game plan.

Last week, it meant meeting with a relocated Florida couple in Palatine to show off and answer questions about a two-story, 3,000-square foot townhome.

Such is the daily routine of the football player turned real estate agent.

“If I’m going to show a home to someone, I’m going to preview everything and then take them to see the best of the best,” said Clark, a former longtime Bears tight end. “If they don’t like the top six, they weren’t going to like the other 15 to 20 homes on the list. You don’t want someone to have to spend 30 minutes in each house. That could take months.”

It took Clark 70 hours to complete an Internet course to secure his Illinois real estate license. Currently, he is part of a five-member Coldwell Banker residential brokerage team, headed by Steven Cohen. Clark started last June and has contributed to the selling of 75 homes in 2012 at a value of about $21 million.

“One of the things about Desmond is he’s a team player,” Cohen said. “The hardest thing to get people to understand is that he’s not just an expert athlete anymore. He’s an expert Realtor.”

Clients often want to talk football. Clark is just fine with such chatter.

“It helps break the ice,” he said. “Football definitely helps me get in the door where a lot of other Realtors wouldn’t be able to get into.”

Clark conjured up a career plan for life after football well before he first dabbled in real estate seven years ago. He knew his NFL career wouldn’t last forever, although 13 credited seasons in Denver, Miami and Chicago far surpassed the six-year average.

Clark is one of 16 starters from the Bears’ Super Bowl XLI team now out of football. Another one of those starters, safety Chris Harris, announced his retirement via Twitter on Jan. 26. Two days later, the Bears named him a defensive quality control assistant coach.

“The NFL is not a final destination,” Harris said. “That’s what guys have to realize.”

Clark, who turns 36 in April, would have kept playing if the Bears hadn’t declined to re-sign him late in 2011 after his recovery from a sprained knee.

The reality of football being an afterthought became clearer last September when Clark dropped by Halas Hall to huddle with the team’s community relations department about his youth foundation. After the meeting, he said security escorted him off the property. He was viewed as an uninvited free agent, not a former member of the Bears’ family.

“I was like, ‘Are you serious?’” Clark said. “So what I did, just so I could have a relationship with the team was, I wrote them a letter saying my intentions were to never play again and that I was officially retired from football.”

He has prepared well for the transition. Clark owns a degree in communications from Wake Forest and pondered a future as member of the media. He hosted his own radio show — “Sportsmanlike Conduct” — for a year on WRMN-AM 1410 in Elgin until he decided to dedicate himself fully to real estate.

“I never identify myself as just an athlete,” Clark said. “There’s more to me than just playing football. A lot of guys struggle because they were just athletes all their lives.

“When they take the sport away from you, when you no longer can play, who are you then?

“Real estate, this is my career now. I want to retire when I’m 50, so I have 14 more years to go.”

Media darling

Nathan Vasher: “(Lovie Smith), you have a couple of interviews lined up? What’s on your plate?”

Lovie Smith impersonator: “You know, Lovie’s always got something going on. It’s always love for Lovie out there, despite what you heard, Nate Vash. ... I’m just glad I’m not in that Bear weather no more.”

That’s a snippet from a Jan. 7 podcast of the Jmack and Nate Vash show on chicagolandsportsradio.com. Former Bears fullback Jason McKie comically attempted to play the role of his former coach during a skit with his co-host, ex-Bears cornerback Vasher.

In terms of his career as a color analyst or talk show host, McKie simply wants to be taken seriously.

“My goal is to be on ESPN one day,” he said. “I don’t see it being that hard, seeing that I played in the NFL.”

On the first floor of the Illinois Center for Broadcasting school in Chicago is one of the places where McKie carries out his post-football dreams. He and Vasher followed the lead of talk show host Jarrett Payton — son of the late Walter Payton — and brought the “Jmack & Nate Vash Show” to chicagolandsportsradio.com at the beginning of last season after a yearlong stint on WKRS-AM 1220 in Waukegan.

“We don’t get paid for it,” McKie said. “But it’s good practice.”

Obviously practice paid off.

Just last month, McKie and Vasher secured a slot with WLS-AM 890 radio from 9 p.m. to midnight Sundays while maintaining their Monday and Friday gig (noon to 2 p.m.) on the other outlet.

“With our show, we talk about sports, relationships, currents events ... all types of stuff,” McKie said. “We’ve talked about things like the seven things men find attractive about women. We try to capture every type of audience.”

The 32-year-old McKie, who received a degree in broadcast, communications and mass media from Temple, is fresh off a stint with the online Total College Sports Network, where he worked alongside former NFL quarterback Sean Salisbury on “The Fifth Quarter.” He previously interned with the Bears network during his playing days and also appeared on WLS-Ch. 7’s version of the “Chicago Huddle,” a Bears-oriented pregame show then-hosted by Ryan Chiaverini.

“There are some athletes who have a sense of entitlement, but Jason was never like that,” said Chiaverini, now the co-host of Ch. 7’s “Windy City Live” morning show. “Jason was willing to start at the bottom. He wanted to learn. And he obviously knows the game. And he’s a really good people person. That’s huge for an athlete wanting to be on television.”

A part of McKie believes he could contribute on the football field. He played nine seasons, including seven with the Bears. His last stint was with the Ravens, who released him before the 2011 season.

McKie came to grips with the evolution of the game from the days when the Bears came off the bus running.

“The way the league has changed, with it being a passing league now, fullbacks have slowly but surely become irrelevant,” he said. “I can’t be bitter about the situation. I’m thankful that I played at a time and on team when the fullback was utilized.”

He hasn’t completely separated himself from the game. McKie trains athletes for the NFL scouting combine at EFT Sports Performance in Highland Park. He won’t hesitate to offer advice to aspiring pros.

“When you come out of college, and you play six years, you’re still (only) 27 years old,” McKie said. “To me, that says you still have your whole life ahead of you. You have to be prepared for that reality.”

A foot in the game

Rashied Davis barely could pick himself out of bed Jan. 29.

Physically, there was nothing wrong with the former Bears wide receiver. Mentally, it was tough for Davis to embrace the magnitude of the decision he made the night before: His football career was over.

“There were times during last season where I tried to tell myself I was done,” Davis said. “But I guess the last bit for me was when I saw Chris Harris get hired (as a coach) and just hang it up.

“Actually, my wife still wants me to play. Since I’ve met her, this is what I’ve done. This is what she has known me as. It’s different to see me at home.”

In many ways, the 33-year-old Davis far exceeded expectations. He didn’t play football until junior college yet played seven NFL seasons after a stint in the arena league. He wasn’t supposed to make an impact with the Bears yet was a key contributor in the divisional playoff victory over the Seahawks two games before the Super Bowl.

Sure, the Bears releasing him after last year’s training camp left a bitter taste, but Davis saw no reason to dwell on it.

“I had a good career,” Davis said. “God blessed us. We made enough money that retirement can be good, and we’ll be able to pay for our children’s education. But right now, I have to work.”

Davis has something in mind other than driving his young daughter and son to and from school. He already has reached out to contacts around the league about the possibility of becoming a scout. He became intrigued with that after visiting the 2009 Texas vs. Nation college all-star game and sitting with some of the Bears scouts, including director of pro scouting Chris Ballard.

“I just sat with them, talked to them about what they were doing, what type of time commitment it would take, and what they really did,” Davis said. “It all sounded good to me.”

Davis might want to keep contact with Ballard.

Harris, 30, reached out to Ballard before securing his current coaching position. Harris interviewed with general manager Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman at the Senior Bowl. During the season he will spend his days dissecting film, preparing playbooks, and assisting new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, his former coach in Jacksonville.

“I definitely want to become a head coach someday in this league,” Harris said. “I have some great coaches to learn from on this coaching staff.

“It’s still hard to walk away from the game because it’s something you love doing, it’s a passion, it’s like an addiction. But at the same time, the more you realize it’s just a journey and not a final destination, the better off you’ll be.”

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