INDIANAPOLIS -- Le’Raven Clark really had no idea what he was doing when he decided to make something as a 10-year-old in Rockdale, Texas. The second-year Indianapolis Colts offensive lineman just knew that being good with his hands was a family trait.
His father was a carpenter, one grandfather a blacksmith and another a welder. For Clark, it was a matter of grabbing some nails, a hammer, some wood and finding a tree. The final product -- a tree house, of course -- was far from perfect, but Clark was on to something.
While most kids enjoyed playing video games or hanging out at the mall, Clark often found himself tinkering with wood, trying to build his next creative piece.
“I think it’s the genes in our family,” Clark said. “My grandfather and all my uncles were good at it. It started out just as a hobby of mine. Nobody taught me anything. I picked it up on my own. I used the tree house when I wanted to get away from my sisters and I needed some quiet time.”
Clark graduated from tree houses that he hoped were sturdy enough to hold him to now having a garage full of tools and having built everything that’s currently in his home with the exception of his couch.
The kitchen table, end tables, night stands in his bedroom and bed frame were measured, cut, screwed and hammered together by the 6-foot-5, 311-pound Clark.
“Funny thing is, I’m upset that I didn’t make my couch,” Clark said, laughing. “That’s going to be my next project. All those things I’ve made will be things I want to keep forever.”
Making his own couch will have to wait for the moment. Clark is currently in the midst of trying to regain his starting right tackle job on the Colts' offensive line. He started the final three regular-season games last season and the first preseason game before coach Chuck Pagano benched him in favor of Jeremy Vujnovich against the Dallas Cowboys last weekend.
“We’re just going to keep moving around, get guys in spots,” Pagano said. “Zach Banner has been out here every day. He’s getting better every single day. He’s a big, big man. I’m excited to see how he does this game. We’ve got Denzelle [Good] back out here doing some stuff. There’s a lot of good competition right now for that spot.”
Clark's passion for building furniture expanded while he was in college at Texas Tech. He would “dumpster dive” for wood and other tools to build things. It started with him breaking apart the wood of some old pallets and making a coffee table for his apartment. The next thing he knew, he was building for himself and for his teammates when time permitted.
Clark is at the point where you can quiz him on the different kinds of woods and the odds are very high that he’ll tell you what kind it is.
Oak. Pine. Maple. Cherry. The list goes on and on.
Clark could easily go to a store to purchase gifts for friends and family members. He doesn't prefer to do that. His choice is to put in the time and make the gifts himself.
“It’s about the time and effort I put into making it,” he said. “Hopefully there’s more value into it than going to the store and buying something. I’m putting my hands all over it. It’s something they can keep for a while, which I hope they appreciate that aspect of it.”
Clark admits that sometimes it’s hard to relinquish a finished product.
“If I make something for somebody else, I don’t always want to get rid of it,” he said with a smile. “I may be reluctant to hand it over even if it’s not the best thing that I’ve made. I’m always slightly attached to it.”
Are the things he built good enough to be in furniture stores?
“Maybe I’m biased, but yeah, I think so,” Clark said.
The days of going on a “dumpster dive" are behind Clark. He’s found a place near the Colts' practice facility where he purchases his wood. The time spent in his garage wearing a tool belt, being a blue-collar worker is often limited to Tuesday, which is the team's off day, during the regular season unless he’s stressed and needs to clear to his mind. His main focus is protecting the team’s quarterbacks and opening lanes for running backs.
“I’m very passionate about building,” Clark said. “Right now, I love football. Building is a hobby on the side. But after I'm done playing this game, it'll be something I pursue.”