May 6, 2023

O’Leary: Stampeders worth the wait for Clark Barnes

Christian Bender/

The first lesson that Clark Barnes learned in his professional football career turned out to be patience.

The University of Guelph receiver came out of the CFL Combine presented by New Era seen as the best pass catcher on the turf in Edmonton. The six-foot, 198-pound Brampton, Ont. native felt like come draft night, he wouldn’t be waiting long before his phone rang.

In the big picture, he wasn’t. The Calgary Stampeders took him with their third round pick, 24th overall. The competitor in him got antsy, though, as the first round led into the second. TSN had just made the jump from its on-air broadcast over to its TSN+ feed when Clark was chosen. The draft party he had put together — family and friends, some of his Guelph teammates — got their moment to celebrate his official leap to the pros.

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Barnes posted the second-fastest 40-yard dash time at the CFL Combine in Edmonton (Jason Franson/

On Friday, there was more cause for celebration. Barnes was one of six members of the Stamps’ 2023 draft class to come to terms with the team. He’s officially a pro football player now.

“It is definitely surreal. I don’t think it’s totally sunk in all the way yet,” Barnes said on Friday, shortly after he’d signed his contract.

“It’s a real dream come true for sure.”

Landing with the Stamps, the 22-year-old felt it was worth the wait in the end, but it was still a tough one for him. Every vibration of his phone sent a pang of nervousness through him and every time he saw that it was a Snapchat notification or texts from friends, it just added to his nervousness.

“Definitely expected to go a little higher in the draft, but it wasn’t too much of a toll on me,” he said. “Once it happened I was just excited to go and thankful honestly, that Calgary gave me the shot.

“I was told to expect the first two rounds,” he said. “But you never know what to expect. You always know that anything could happen. Regardless, it’s not too much of a difference per round. Everybody has to earn it at camp so it didn’t really matter to me too much.”

When the phone finally did ring and general manager/head coach Dave Dickenson gave him the good news, Barnes got the fit that he was hoping for. The Stamps continue to be a model franchise in the CFL, even if they haven’t hoisted a Grey Cup since the 2018 season. Dickenson and team president John Hufnagel continue to find talent and develop players at a high level. For someone like Barnes, who has shown tremendous potential as a receiver (14 games over three seasons with 516 yards and six touchdowns) and returner (four touchdowns on 23 kickoff returns) in his time at Guelph, Calgary is a perfect landing spot.

“Especially when you’re going out of town and not somewhere close to where you’re from, knowing that you’re going to be in good hands with a great organization, it’s definitely comforting knowing that,” he said.

He’ll head into Stamps’ rookie camp next week with a ton of opportunity in front of him, as well. On Wednesday, the Stamps announced that receiver Jalen Philpot, last year’s fifth overall pick, would miss training camp as he continues to rehab from a hamstring injury that required surgery. That’s bad news for the team, as Philpot was primed to take a leap from the impressive rookie season he had, but as he’s already learned in receiver meetings, it opens up a need and a chance for players to step in and fill the void.

“I’m just focused on doing whatever I can in camp and doing the best with what they’re asking of me,” Barnes said. “It’s really all you can focus on, making sure that you’re taking advantage of any opportunity that comes up.”

He’s more than happy to be with an organization like the Stamps, but that competitor in Barnes is still stewing a little. Ready to put in the hard work for his new team, if he ends up showing some others on what they missed out on, that’s fine by him too.

“I have a pretty big chip on my shoulder, honestly,” he said.

“I want to prove a lot of people wrong in how the draft went but I’m trying not to pay attention to that chip on my shoulder too much and get filled with a lot of negative energy. So I’m just trying to stay positive, just focus on football and not a lot of outside talk and assumptions and stuff like that. I’m just excited to play ball.”

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