Ex-USC, NFL End Leon Clarke Dies

Oct. 8, 2009

Leon Clarke, an all-league end who led USC in receiving in 1954 and 1955 and was a member of the Trojans' 1955 Rose Bowl team before playing in the NFL for 8 years, died on Monday (Oct. 5) in Los Alamitos, Calif., of pancreatitis. He was 76.

Clarke, who prepped at Venice (Calif.) High, lettered 3 years (1953-55) at USC. He led the Trojans in receiving as both a junior (13 catches for 232 yards) and senior (15 catches for 215 yards and 2 touchdowns), earning All-Pacific Coast Conference honors in 1955. The Trojans posted a 6-3-1 record in his 1953 sophomore campaign, then went 8-4 in his junior season and finished ranked No. 17 nationally by AP after falling to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. USC was 6-4 and ended up ranked No. 13 the following year. He played in the East-West Shrine Game, Hula Bowl and College All-Star Game after his senior season.

He was a second round NFL draft pick (14th overall selection) by the Los Angeles Rams in 1956 and played with the Rams (1956-59), Cleveland Browns (1960-62) and Minnesota Vikings (1963). In his 8-year NFL career, he caught 141 passes for 2,215 yards (15.7 average) with 18 touchdowns. He made the Pro Bowl in 1956 and 1957.

After his playing career, Clarke entered private business.

Funeral service plans are pending.

He is survived by his wife, Mitzi, his 3 sons (Christopher, Curtis and Kerry) and 3 step-daughters (India, Sandy and Tonya), as well as numerous grandchildren.

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