SAMOHI — The new head coach of the Vikings knows a thing or two about winning and Santa Monica.
Travis Clark, who was named the new head football coach late last week, not only played for Santa Monica High School, but he also helped the school win a California Interscholastic Federation championship in 2002 as an assistant coach under then head coach and current Athletic Director Norm Lacy.
His hiring comes less than two months after previous coach Zach Cuda resigned to further his teaching career. The Vikings finished last season 8-3 after losing in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight season.
“I can’t believe this is actually happening,” Clark said. “This is a dream come true.”
His path to becoming head coach at Samohi included a standout career as a wide receiver at the school. He graduated in 1986 and headed to Utah State where he became a two-time All-Big West defensive back. After college, he worked for a few years as a camera operator, but said that coaching was something that always intrigued him.
His first coaching experience came in 1996 as an assistant at St. Monica Catholic High School. After a couple of seasons working with the junior varsity team, Lacy, who knew him from his days at Samohi, asked Clark to move up to varsity where he would later help lead the Mariners to a CIF title in 1999.
He stayed on as an assistant at St. Monica for a season after Lacy left to become the head coach at Samohi. But, it wasn’t long before Lacy came calling again, asking him to be the defensive backs coach in 2002. Again, the two struck gold and won yet another CIF title. His most recent coaching gig was at Ocean League rival Inglewood High School, where he was the defensive coordinator in 2006.
“He brings a wealth of enthusiasm to the team,” Lacy said. “He’s knowledgeable, which impressed everybody.
“He’s a great teacher of the game.”
Lacy and a small hiring committee selected Clark from a field of 35 candidates. That group was later whittled down to five before the committee agreed on Clark. Lacy said that he liked Clark’s close relationship to Samohi and believes that will translate into success on the field.
Clark said that he wants to instill tradition in the team he is inheriting. He wants his players to be familiar with the greats of Samohi’s past, to know the history of the young men who have worn blue and gold.
Clark, who was born and raised in Santa Monica, has already hit the ground running. He first met with his players late last week and began taking part in the off-season conditioning program, which is run by Cuda. He’s been on campus all week and expects to visit at least once a day. His hiring does not come with a teaching position at the school, which means he will keep his day job working in the cable television industry.
His first order of business will be assembling his coaching staff. His first hire will be Byron Jackson, who co-owns Sports Rhythm Skills Positions Football Academy along with Clark. Jackson is the older brother of the Philadelphia Eagles’ DeSean Jackson. He also plans to include Petey Maiden, who played in the NFL, as an assistant on offense. Tony Gomez, who coached on Samohi’s JV team last year, will work with defensive lineman.
At least four assistant positions will be paid jobs. The terms of Clark’s contract are still being hammered out.
The rest of the 12-man coaching staff is currently being sought, but Clark has an idea of what he wants from any candidate.
“I want to be a physical team,” Clark said. “I want us to be a smart team.”