- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Each song on a pregame playlist has a story behind it.

Some stories are common, like using music to get pumped up. Or calmed down.

“I really like that [Taylor Swift] song “Shake It Off,”” Washington Redskins safety Ryan Clark said. “It does something for me.”

Some players stack their playlists with songs inspired by friendships.

Cornerback David Amerson listens to Nas because it reminds him of his brother and best friend. Offensive tackle Trent Williams listens to Lil Wayne, Wale, Kevin Gates and Short Dawg because he’s friends with Lil Wayne, Wale, Kevin Gates and Short Dawg.

Music helped defensive lineman Frank Kearse keep the knee injury he suffered last preseason in perspective. He underwent surgery, and rehab took longer than doctors initially predicted. In order to maintain his confidence, he listened to the Kid Ink song “Hell & Back,” which talks about the hip-hop artist overcoming odds against him.

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“My confidence levels day-to-day were going up and down,” Kearse said. “[The song] let me know that if he can [persevere] with his situation, why can’t I? No situation’s the same, but at least I know that he went through a struggle, and he persevered, so why I can’t I do it?”

The most calculated pregame music in the Redskins’ locker room may belong to Clark. The 13-year NFL veteran cycles through four playlists each Sunday. His first features gospel music, such as Kirk Franklin and Tamela Mann.

“We usually play on Sundays, so we don’t get to go to church,” Clark said. “Our form of worship is being on the field. I just feel like [listening to gospel] is just the way you start off. I always start off the morning by praying. And for me, it’s kind of hard to go right from praying … to hearing somebody want to sell a drug.”

Clark transitions from gospel to R&B artists like Jhené Aiko to relax, then to rappers like Juvenile to get fired up.

His final playlist, like Amerson’s and Williams’, was inspired by a friend and, like Kearse’s, brings back memories of a low point in his life. Before the start of every game, Clark listens to songs that remind him of his former Redskins teammate Sean Taylor, who died in a 2007 shooting at age 24.

“It puts me in that frame of my mind to remember that I’m still doing it for somebody other than myself,” Clark said.

Songs like “My Life” by The Game, “Live In the Sky” by T.I. and “One Day” by Plies — which all tell stories of fallen friends — have reminded Clark of Taylor before kickoffs over the years.

And in the second half of a frustrating season in which the Redskins have earned a record of 3-8, Clark hasn’t audibled his playlist blueprint to get him ready for games. He still begins Sundays with a reminder of his Christian faith and ends his pregame routine with a reminder of Taylor.

“Even though this season is tough, it’s not that tough,” Clark said. “What I mean by that is, we’re losing games, true. We’re not losing our lives. Even when you lose a game, if you’re healthy, you have an opportunity to go play the next week. It’s not a bad deal, man. It sucks to not be winning, but to have the opportunity to do this, I don’t really need anything to pick me up from that, understanding that I’m blessed enough to be in the 1 percent that get to do this for a living.”

• David Daniels can be reached at ddaniels@washingtontimes.com.

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