Chris Clark, an All-Conference USA left tackle at Southern Miss, went undrafted but stepped in as the starter at left tackle during the Denver Broncos' 2013 Super Bowl run. (Photos courtesy of Southern Miss Athletics)

SUPER BOWL COUNTDOWN | 33: Chris Clark had Peyton Manning's back in Denver's Super Bowl XLVIII run

Counting down the weekdays to Super Bowl LI on Feb. 5 in Houston, we look back at the 50 greatest Super Bowl competitors from the ASN family of schools as calculated one year ago. Today: 33.

When Denver Broncos training camp opened in 2013, Chris Clark probably didn’t imagine the role he would play in Denver’s Super Bowl run.

An occasional starter in 2012, Clark was thrust into a key position early on due to an injury to starting left tackle Ryan Clady. That move elevated Clark from a background player to a critical element of Denver’s offensive line.

That offensive line, which protected Peyton Manning, led the NFL in fewest sacks allowed (20) and in games without a sack (six) through the 2013 season. In fact, that line didn’t allow Manning to get hit or sacked in the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots.

Clark, who played left tackle through high school and college, played both guard and tackle in the NFL, but Clady’s injury allowed him to move back into his preferred position at left tackle.

“I know a lot of people on the outside looking in don’t think that’s a big deal, but it is,” Clark told Woody Paige and Les Shapiro on The Sports Show in 2014.

“When you’re at guard, everything is right now and in your face, so it’s not much moving, it’s more of a hands game with power. At tackle, you have to be more balanced and you have to play with more speed and you have to move backward. It’s more of a retreat game than an in-your-face-game. It’s a totally different process from guard to tackle.”

Clark, an All-Conference USA selection as a left tackle for Southern Miss, entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent. He played two seasons on the practice squads of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings before the Broncos picked him up off waivers in 2010. He stayed in Denver for four seasons before being traded to the Houston Texans in 2015.

The Broncos lost Super Bowl XLVIII, 43-8, to the Seattle Seahawks. The offensive line allowed only one sack, but Manning was intercepted twice and Seattle forced three Denver fumbles.

He became the 12th Southern Miss player to appear in a Super Bowl.

“This is an amazing feeling,” Clark said in an ESPN story in 2014. “As a kid, you dream of things like this and hope it will come up one day. Now that’s it’s finally here, man, I’m definitely enjoying it. You have to be about your business also, but I’m definitely enjoying the moment, because I know it’s a short moment.”

Jill R. Dorson is a freelance writer based in San Diego.

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