Clark Plost was ready to give up on UT. Then he found a family—and a scholarship—through the Texas Wranglers.
As told to Rose Cahalan
My freshman year at UT was lonely. I came from a small high school where the football team was my community. Guys you can count on in good and bad times—that’s what the team was. At UT, I was a little fish in a huge sea. The size of the school was a shock, and making friends was tough.
So I tried everything. I was that guy who went to every club. Fraternities, running club, the pre-dental society—I just kept trying. Greek life is great for some people, but it wasn’t for me. I had trouble finding meaning in some of those activities. At all these clubs, I felt like I was on the outside looking in; like everybody else had already figured out who their friends were, and I missed the boat.
Then that summer, my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I took the next year off from school. My family traveled every other week between Tulsa, where I’m from, and Houston, where he was being treated.
And still everybody was giving me suggestions to try this or that club. In the summer of 2010, when I was still out of school, a friend of a friend told me about the Wranglers, and I was skeptical. But then I went to lunch with the recruitment chair and, man, that was it. I was sold.
It just felt right. The way he talked about the other guys, I could tell they were brothers. Texas Wranglers pride themselves on scholarship, leadership, and athletic ability—those are the three big things for me, too. The Wranglers are the official spirit group for the basketball team, but we’re more than that—a fraternity in the true sense of the word.
First I had to get in. About 130 guys applied for 35 spots. I poured my heart into that application, and then I was chosen to be a Maverick, a prospective Wrangler. The Maverick program includes intense physical training and a lot of community service. It’s not like boot camp or hazing; more of a growth experience. We also had Fireside Chats—hourlong meetings with active members and alumni. It was so demanding and so rewarding.
We do a lot for the community. The Wranglers raise about $30,000 every year for Easter Seals of Central Texas, a nonprofit that helps thousands of people with disabilities. For the basketball games, we bus in kids from East Austin, to sit with them and cheer on the team together—a big-brother kind of relationship.
On Oct. 27, 2010, my dad passed away. He was everything to me. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my mom and my brother, making a tough decision—should I go back to UT, or transfer somewhere closer to home? I wanted to transfer, but my brother, Sam, pointed out the support system I had with the Wranglers and urged me to stick with it. He was right.
The Wranglers sent flowers and mailed letters. Some of them even flew up for the funeral. These were guys I’d only known for three months, and they got on a plane to Tulsa to be with me. I’ll never, ever forget that.
I applied for the Fallen Wrangler Memorial Scholarship, which is funded by Wrangler alumni, because money was tight with my dad gone. A $1,000 scholarship doesn’t sound that big, but to me it was. You don’t have to be a Wrangler to apply, but it fit me—the Wranglers are a family, and you go to family when you need help.
It was a sigh of relief to get that scholarship. It’s not about money, it’s about that sense of family.
The Texas Wranglers are the reason I will graduate from UT. For that, and so much more, I’ll be indebted to them for the rest of my life.
The Texas Wranglers in fall 2011; Clark Plost is third from right in the second row. Photo by Shauna D. Mora.