IN FOCUS: DJ Chark
Communications Student Assistant
In the blink of an eye, DJ Chark can turn the burners on and fly.
Going in to the AdvoCare Texas Bowl two seasons ago, Chark was a sophomore. In 10 prior career appearances he hadn’t touched the ball.
Heading into the bowl game against Texas Tech, though, Chark knew he’d be getting the ball at some point.
An Alexandria, La., native, Chark was a three-sport athlete at Alexandria High School. On top of football, he also played basketball for the Trojans and ran track.
Chark was rated as a four-star prospect by ESPN.com. Prior to his senior campaign, LSU came calling to offer him a scholarship.
“Coming from a small city in Louisiana, going to LSU is a big thing,” Chark explained. “Being awarded this opportunity meant a lot not only to myself, but also the city.”
When he committed, Chark was all in, as he completely shut down his recruitment from any other suitors. On weekends he visited LSU to watch the likes of Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Both of those guys have had an impact on the current senior.
“Those two were always putting in work and it showed on Saturdays,” Chark said. “It gives you the mentality that you need as a receiver. You have to come in and put in work. You can never work too much. It gives you a guideline to be great.”
Chark took note of what those LSU stars did to be successful and when he stepped on campus he tried to go about his business in a similar fashion.
In Chark’s sophomore season of 2015, quarterback Danny Etling was forced to sit out a year after transferring to LSU. At the time, both players were on the scout team. Etling would get his time to shine in 2016, the following season. Chark was going to get his shot in 2015.
The team had been practicing a sweep play going into the AdvoCare Texas Bowl. It was designed for Chark. In the first quarter the Tigers held a 7-6 lead. Then they called the DJ Sweep, and the rest is history.
Chark took the end-around for 79 yards and housed it. That opened up the offense for the Tigers, as LSU went on to win 56-27.
The kid was a flash.
“I got some great blocks,” Chark said. “I was able to cut across the field and turn it into a track meet.”
Now, Chark had one touch in his LSU career and he also had a touchdown.
“You can’t really explain that feeling of getting your first touchdown, but I was so excited,” Chark explained. “It was something I could build off of the whole offseason.”
He went into the offseason rejuvenated and ready to get to work. When he came back for his junior campaign in 2016, he worked his way into more playing time.
He finished third on the team in receptions (26) and second on the team in yards (466) and touchdowns (three). He solidified himself as a playmaker as he made at least a 30-yard reception in seven of LSU’s final eight games. He kept showing off that speed of his, too.
When it came nickname time, Chark was given “Flash.”
“It’s a fun thing we all do,” explained Etling, who has the nickname “Green Arrow.” “We have a bunch of nicknames and play around with it. I think that there’s no other superhero to epitomize him more than the Flash.”
Chark finished his junior year with a new nickname and as a known playmaker.
At LSU, playmakers wear jersey number 7. In January of this year, Chark was told he would wear that proud number.
“The guys that wear seven are big playmakers, but they’re also leadership guys,” Chark said. “I feel like being put in that role, I can help my team out by getting a big play when we need it.”
Some other players that have donned the number are guys that any Tiger fan will recognize – Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Leonard Fournette, and now Chark.
“It’s a big honor,” said a humble Chark. “I remember watching Patrick Peterson in college and all the plays he made. I always watched Tyrann Mathieu, and I was here to witness Leonard.”
In his second game wearing No. 7, “Flash” received a punt return against Chattanooga. Showing off his wheels, Chark took it home, 65 yards to the end zone.
Not everybody is blessed with the speed that Chark possesses. He says the last time he was measured running the 40-yard dash was during his freshman campaign. He remembers being clocked at a 4.43. Speedy.
“I’ve gained weight, grown taller, gotten stronger. I think I’m a little faster now,” Chark said.
For a quarterback, that speed is nice.
“It’s pretty tough to overthrow him,” Etling explained. “I think I’ve only done it a few times since I got here.”
Chark thrives in one-on-one opportunities to go up and get the ball deep down the field.
“Once the ball is in the air, you have to gather yourself, go up, use your long arms if you’re blessed with long arms, and go attack it before the other guy can get to it.” Chark said. “The best thing about receiver is usually the defensive back doesn’t see the ball until you stop and go for it. You have the advantage over him of knowing where the ball is, so you’re able to get to it before they get to it. Then you’ve got to secure it.
“Everything happens quickly. Once you come down with it, you realize that you made a big play. Everybody is going crazy. Then you need to come back and do it again, but you feel like you’ve won that battle.”
Six games into the 2017 campaign, Chark has six receptions for more than 20 yards. He leads the team in catches and yards.
“That’s been great for DJ to do, and I think he’ll keep doing that for us in a big way,” said Etlling, who added something about “Flash.”
“Anytime you watch film and you see him eating up coverage on a defensive back who has a cushion of about 10 yards, and all of the sudden, DJ is up on him running by him. It’s pretty impressive to see and throw to him.”
Just as he likes going deep to make huge receptions, Chark enjoys having the ball in his hands and making a play juking and jiving.
“I can make the defender think I’m going outside and then go inside, try to get a little saucy on him,” Chark said with a grin.
When you have tremendous speed, you can get saucy all you want. Lucky for Chark, he possesses the flash.