NASHVILLE, Tenn. – While Belmont University might not have a football team of its own, it will still have a presence on the sidelines at the 2018 College Football Playoffs. No. 3 Notre Dame's Defensive Coordinator Clark Lea spent two years in the Belmont Baseball dugout before trading in his bat for a football.
Lea, a native of Nashville, was a three-sport star at Montgomery Bell Academy, just minutes from Belmont's campus. When it came time to choose between football, basketball and baseball, he chose to continue his athletic career as a member of the Belmont University Baseball team. Lea spent two years excelling behind the plate in navy and red. Lea then decided to give up his baseball career to live out a dream of playing football and transferred to nearby Vanderbilt University where he was a welcomed walk on. The 2004 (B.A. Political Science) and 2007 (M.A. Political Science) graduate of Vanderbilt earned three letters in football where he earned All-SEC Academic Team honors two years. He was also a 2005 finalist for the John Wooden Cup and the recipient of the H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete award.
When it was time to hang his cleats up, he couldn't stay away from the game, thus begining his coaching career. Starting as a graduate assistant at UCLA, Lea went on to coach at storied programs such as South Dakota State, Bowling Green, Syracuse and wake forest before landing a job at his dream school, Notre Dame, in 2017 as the Linebackers coach.
Lea made an immediate impact to the Fighting Irish in his first season, coaching a linebacker unit that saw four players register at least 75 tackles, a first in school history. On January 9, 2018, Lea was promoted to Defensive Coordinator.
This has been a storied season for Notre Dame football, especially its defense. A defense that ranks top-10 in five statistical categories, has helped lead the Fighting Irish to a perfect 12-0 record in the regular season. Lea will lead his defense to take on No. 2 Clemson's prolific offense Saturday in the College Football Playoffs Semifinals as the Irish fight to keep its perfect season alive.
While Belmont fans don't usually have much to cheer for when it comes to college football, they can root for Notre Dame and former Bruin Clark Lea this year.
The game, set to kickoff at 3:00 P.M. CT in Arlington, Texas and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.