Bruised, stiff and tired, Dwight Clark, 28, stretches out on the living room couch of his Belmont, Calif. condominium. “Your daddy is sore today,” Clark tells his 10-month-old daughter, Casey. Sore but satisfied, as he savors the San Francisco 49ers’ 23-0 trouncing of the Chicago Bears for the NFC Championship less than 24 hours earlier. For the All-Pro wide receiver, it was a good afternoon but not a spectacular one—a day minus the heroics, for instance, of the 1982 NFC Championship game, when he snagged an impossible Joe Montana pass with 51 seconds left to give the 49ers a 28-27 win over Dallas. This season Clark is sharing the wealth of Montana’s prolific passing arm with the likes of Renaldo Nehemiah and Freddie Solomon, and today he’s philosophical about it.
“Maybe my career will last longer,” Clark theorizes. His wife, Ashley, who is five months pregnant agrees. “It’s the whole team that’s important to Dwight,” she claims. “He knows there are other players who can catch the ball. He’s doing more blocking this year, and he’s very proud of it.”
Wait a minute. What’s going on here? Dwight Clark—Mr. Self-Effacement? The guy who has caught more passes (349) than any other wide receiver in the NFC over the past five seasons? Whose three-year contract is worth more than $1.6 million, whose All-American good looks and fondness for the ladies prompted his Clemson University pals (class of 79, majoring in history) to dub him the “Heartbreak Kid?” Who for two years was known as much for his romance with former Miss Universe Shawn Weatherly as for his gridiron performance? Since when has this guy been humble?
Modesty, marriage and a rapidly expanding family, it turns out, were always part of Dwight Clark’s nature. Today the onetime Bay Area bachelor is a devoted husband and father whose idea of a good time ranges between a TV movie at home and a hamburger at Wendy’s. Now in his sixth pro season, the 6’4″, 215-pound Clark was a lightly regarded 10th-round draft pick in 1979. He earned just $30,000 as a rookie, but by the following year he became Montana’s favorite target. His romance with Weatherly thrust him further into the public eye. Then came “The Catch” in the Dallas game and the subsequent 26-21 win over Cincinnati in Super Bowl XVI. But by the end of 1982 Clark had broken up with Weatherly, and months of partying with his NFL buddies during the strike-shortened season had convinced him, he says, that “I had enough. I felt burned out. The conception of me being a playboy wasn’t true. I just wanted to settle down.”
Enter Ashley Stone, a blond-haired, green-eyed beauty five years Dwight’s junior, who makes her feelings about a certain Miss Universe very clear. “One subject that has worn out its welcome with me is Shawn Weatherly,” she says. “Dwight and I have been married almost a year and a half and have a baby and another on the way, and Shawn’s all the press can talk about.” Clark would rather talk about Ashley, whom he met during the summer of 1982 in Myrtle Beach, S.C. where he owns a summer house. “I thought she looked like a little Bo Derek with those high cheekbones sticking out,” he recalls. “I was interested right away but she shot me down. She had a boyfriend, and I was semi-involved myself.” A year went by before they met again, but now the time was right. “That second summer it was like we’d been together a million years,” Ashley says. They were married Labor Day weekend, 1983.
The Clarks have a Palm Springs condominium they use in the off-season, but they are looking for a year-round place in the San Francisco area. Joe Montana is a close friend and camped out with the Clarks during his highly publicized divorce. “Having Joe live with us was very nice,” says Ashley. “I was kind of like his momma. He’d always talk to me about the girls he was dating.” Clark is planning a post-retirement career in business or coaching, and with his real estate investments in Charlotte, N.C.—and a father who is senior vice-president of a bank there—he should have no problem keeping financially afloat.
Clark’s immediate concern is Sunday’s date with Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins. Casey Clark’s daddy will no doubt be sore again on Monday—but nothing that a second Super Bowl victory wouldn’t assuage.