Positions Running back
Rushing att–yards: 582–2552
Education Wake Forest University
Role American football player
College: Wake Forest
Name Clark Gaines
|Date of birth: (1954-02-01) February 1, 1954 (age 61)|
Place of birth: Elberton, Georgia
Clark Daniel Gaines (born February 1, 1954) is a former American football running back in the National Football League (NFL). He played for the New York Jets and the Kansas City Chiefs over the course of his seven-year NFL career.
Gaines was one of only 13 African American students to volunteer to integrate Elbert County High School in Elberton, Georgia. He was coached by Boyd Outz. After graduating from Elbert County Comprehensive High School, Gaines attended Lees-McRae College and graduated from Wake Forest University. In his two seasons as a Demon Deacon, Gaines gained 1,258 yards on 336 carries (3.7 avg.), and was team captain and an All-ACC selection his senior year.
Gaines made his professional debut in the NFL in 1976 with the New York Jets. In his rookie season, Gaines ran for 724 yards and hauled in 41 receptions for the Jets. Having been overlooked in the draft due to injuries, Gaines signed with the Jets as a free agent and became the first rookie ever selected as Jets' MVP. In the 1976 season, he led all NFL rookies with 724 yards rushing despite not starting until the seventh game, set a franchise record with four 100-yard rushing games in a single season, and was selected AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year by NFL Players Association.
After being sidelined due to injuries in 1978, Gaines returned in 1979 as a dominant force for the Jets once again. In the 1979 season, he became the first Jet ever to lead the team in rushing and receiving twice, finishing the season fourth among AFC rushing leaders, tied for first in the AFC in yards per carry, and fumbled only once in 186 carries. The Sporting News named him the best running back in the AFC East and the most individual offensive improvement in the division in 1979.
On September 21, 1980, Gaines broke a Jets franchise record with 17 catches in a singe game against the San Francisco 49ers, a franchise record that still stands. Gaines is currently third, and first among running backs, in the NFL record books for receptions per game. He was the first undrafted running back to reach 500 yards rushing as a rookie, and is now one of only six in NFL history to do so.
He "wore many hats" for the Jets: although technically a running back, he was also a prolific receiver, was an intimidating blocker in short yardage situations, and played special teams.
Gaines has been employed with the NFL Players Association for 22 years, and in April 2008 was promoted to Assistant Executive Director.
Gaines's jersey is retired at Elbert County Comprehensive High School. In 2009, he received the Elbert County Native Citizen Award by the Elbert County Chamber of Commerce.