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Cotton Clark – the Life of an Alabama Running Back

picture of Cotton running in a Crimson Tide game

A Resident Feature

Terry “Cotton” Clark has always loved football.

Born in the little town of Kansas, Alabama, Cotton grew up in a family that loved the sport, and he learned to play when he was very young.

“It was the only thing we had to do,” Cotton explained. “It was football or nothing.”

Cotton played several sports at Carbon Hill High School, including basketball and baseball. But football was really where he shined.

He was running back for the Bulldogs team, becoming an all-state and All-Southern player. His team even scored a 10-0 season in 1958, which brought him to the attention of Gene Stallings. Stallings was working with Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Before he knew it, Cotton was playing for Crimson Tide as a scholarship player. His number was 45.

“I thought it was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Cotton remembered.

photo of Cotton Clark with former Alabama teammate LeRoy Jordan
Cotton Clark with former Alabama teammate LeRoy Jordan

Cotton played halfback, fullback, safety and punter on the team from 1959-1962 under Bear Bryant.

“He was a super nice guy, but you’d better do what you were supposed to!” Cotton remembered, adding that practice was the hard part of his football career. Bear Bryant wasn’t the only football star Cotton got to know, either. He played alongside quarterback Joe Namath, who went on to play for the New York Jets and Los Angeles Rams. He was a Super Bowl Champion and MVP in 1969.

“It was fantastic,” Cotton said of the experience. “He was my quarterback all four years. He was a good guy.”

While Cotton doesn’t remember much about the individual games he played, the ones that stick out in his mind are “any time we played Auburn” because of the huge rivalry between the two Alabama-based football teams.

“This was war,” Cotton said about those games.

Perhaps the most famous game he played in, though, was the 1962 opener between Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs, which Alabama won 35-0! The victory was due in large part to the teamwork between Cotton and Joe Namath.

According to the Walker County Sports Hall of Fame, into which Cotton was inducted in 2016, “In 1962, he led the SEC and was second nationally with 92 total points. Most of these points were from 15 touchdowns, which was an Alabama team record. He was also third nationally in punting at 42.5 yards per attempt and seventh in punt returns at 15.2 years per return.”

Cotton played in the Southwestern Challenge Bowl All-Star game and then played for a while with the Oakland Raiders.

Cotton married and moved to Jacksonville, Alabama. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business from Jacksonville State University and went on to serve as a coach for the college for five years under Charley Pell. Charley’s playing career for Crimson Tide overlapped Cotton’s, so the two were well acquainted.

Cotton also went on to serve as head coach at Jacksonville High School for four years. Outside of football, Cotton and his wife, Louise, had a son, Jeff. He also served in the National Guard for six years and had a 30-year career as a salesman at Sunny King Ford in Anniston, Alabama.

In 2021, Cotton started to need more help, and his family decided it was time for assisted living. They chose Morning Pointe of Tuscaloosa.

photo of Cotton Clark at Morning Pointe of Tuscaloosa
Cotton Clark at Morning Pointe of Tuscaloosa

“I love this place,” Cotton said of his new home. “The food’s good, and everything is right where you are – you don’t have to get in a car and drive anywhere. And I’ve got a bunch of good friends.”

Some of Cotton’s favorite activities at Morning Pointe are the penny auctions and music programs, but he also likes to just sit outside with his friends when the weather is nice.

Of course, Cotton continues to follow all the Crimson Tide games and news! His son Jeff picks him up on game days to watch the games at his house.

Cotton’s advice to football players is, “Do everything the coach says to, and stay in shape.”

Thank you, Cotton, for your legacy, and for being part of the Morning Pointe family!

photo of Cotton on the field
Cotton on the field

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