By any measure of a man, Desmond Clark is a success.
He graduated from Wake Forest University, he's played 12 NFL seasons, and he's got a wife and twin daughters.
But, growing up in Lakeland, Fla., Clark said he depended on male mentors to fill a void, when his father wasn't a part of his life from age 7 to 17.
"I recognize that I didn't get here by myself," he said. "Nobody is self-made. Everybody had some help along the way.
"I had a bunch of men - mainly coaches - step up and become mentors to me. I see the importance of that."
To that end, Clark started 88 Wayz Youth Foundation, a non-profit established in 2008 that, among other things, provides mentorship and an afterschool program in Lakeland. But, Clark is expanding to Chicago, and he's hosting a private event tonight for distinguished guests, including Karen Yarbrough, a member of the Illinois House of Representatives.
In January, after winter break, 88 Wayz will open the after school program at Roosevelt Middle School in Bellwood and Catalyst Elementary Charter School in Chicago.
Clark called Tuesday night's event a "friend-raiser," designed to raise awareness about his program. But Clark is also looking for mentors, volunteers, donors and potential board members.
"I feel I've taken so much away from Chicago, I should give something back," Clark said.
Clark acknowledged that he's got more time on his hands now, since the Bears released him with an injury settlement.
But Clark clearly wasn't thrilled about the way things ended with the organization he played eight of his NFL seasons.
"I don't really care to talk about it, because there's no way to make it positive," he said. "I don't want to put out anything negative about anyone or the organization."
But, Clark insisted that he's healthy and "ready to go," for any other team that might be interested.
"I started sprinting and cutting and all football activities," he said. "I'm ready, as soon as I get a call."