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College football player from North Texas dies at 21 after sudden collapse

Defensive lineman Clark Yarbrough played football at Sachse High School.

SACHSE, Texas — A college football player from North Texas has died after a sudden collapse, his school said Sunday. He was 21.

Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) in Arkansas announced the death of defensive lineman Clark Yarbrough in a Twitter post. 

His mother, Mattie Yarbrough, told WFAA from her home in Rowlett that she had traveled to Oklahoma to watch her son play in a Ouachita victory on Thursday, Sept. 1, against Oklahoma Baptist.

Then came the stunning news Sunday morning that her son was gone

"Had a big hug, took pictures, took videos – I loved on him as I always do after every game," she said. "His mama is his biggest fan."

What happened is a mystery. Tuesday, the school confirmed Arkansas state police are investigating. There is no timetable for when that might be completed. 

In a statement Tuesday, the school said Ouachita staff provided immediate emergency assistance, and, following additional measures by emergency responders and other medical professionals, Yarbrough was pronounced dead at Baptist Health Medical Center in Arkadelphia.

"He’s the best brother any brother could ever have," said Matthew Yarbrough, Clark's 24-year-old brother. "Out of all of us, he was the most responsible and he was the baby."

“Anytime somebody passes that’s that young, you want answers and that’s definitely what we want," head coach Todd Knight said. "We’re around a lot of believers and that gives us strength and gives us encouragement and helps us make the next step.”

Before heading to Arkansas in 2019, Yarbrough played football at Sachse High School in North Texas. The city of Sachse is about 20 miles northeast of Dallas.

Yarbrough had 27 tackles in the 2021 season for Ouachita and received an honorable mention selection for the All-Great American Conference team. Knight said Yarbrough could bench press 350 pounds and squat 600 pounds.

Clark's family said he was majoring in sports management and had plans to earn a master's degree.

He was on track to graduate from OBU in May 2023 and hoped to become a graduate assistant with the OBU football team. 

"God really got a great angel," said Matthew. 

Mattie said she wanted the world to know her son was "amazing."

"He was my buddy. He was my baby," she said. 

Credit: Family photo
Clark Yarbrough

Sachse High School Principal Shae Creel offered his condolences.

"In this business, you see a lot of things.  You share the wins, the losses, the laughs, the cries…and so on. Nothing prepares you for the loss of life. We lost a good one. Rest easy big man!" Creel said on Twitter.

On Tuesday, Sept. 6, Ouachita Baptist University sent WFAA statements from university officials, Yarbrough's teammates and others who knew him: 

"Clark was an exemplary student – academically, athletically and spiritually," said Dr. Rickey Rogers, vice president for student development at Ouachita. "He held strongly to his Christian faith, and it was evident in the way he lived his life and led his fellow students."

"[He was] a special kind of guy. He always led me in the right direction, from the day I got here until the last conversation I had with him," Jason Jackson, senior defensive back, said. He made me feel welcomed, like I had a real brother in Christ at a brand-new university where, at first, I felt like I was all alone. Clark was my first friend when I got here, and I will cherish him forever."

"Clark was someone you wanted on your team," said Quantel Williams, director of residence life at Ouachita. "He always had a great disposition that illuminated the room and was a pleasure to be around each day. Clark loved the Lord, his family and his friends in a big way."

"Clark was so solid in all areas of life, and I admired that very much in him. Obviously his family, teammates and closest friends will grieve this loss most significantly," Bryan McKinney, a professor of Yarbrough's, said. "I will miss him as well. He was one of those students I expected to stay in touch with well beyond his time at Ouachita. I hoped to encourage him in his journey forward, and I knew he would be a blessing to me."

"He was funny, goofy, kind-hearted and one of the most genuine people I knew," Tiger defensive lineman Anthony Freeman said. "He knew when to be serious, though, and was always positive in he how led."

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