Nat Clark smiles as he talks with reporters after being introduced Monday afternoon as the head football coach at Husson University in Bangor. Clark takes over for his mentor and former coach, Gabby Price, who stepped down last month. Credit: Monty Rand Photography

Nat Clark played football for Gabby Price at Bangor High School and was his assistant coach for the Rams before he joined Price’s staff at Husson University, where he spent 12 seasons with him.

Now, he has replaced Price.

Clark, who was named the interim head coach after Price retired last month, was officially named the head coach of the Eagles on Monday afternoon.

The 69-year-old Price compiled a 72-45 record in 12 seasons and was named the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference Coach of the Year for the third straight season last fall. He guided Husson to five straight postseason berths including four NCAA Division III playoff appearances.

“I’ve watched Nat closely the past six years and he is more than ready for this role,” Husson Director of Athletics Frank Pergolizzi said. “Coach Price called him the ‘Soul of Husson football.’ He’s a perfect fit.”

Clark, Husson’s Athletics Academic Coordinator, has been the special teams coordinator and offensive line coach for the Eagles.

He said he will remain the offensive line coach.

“I am very honored to be named the head coach at Husson University,” the 42-year-old Clark said during a news conference in Husson’s Hall of Fame Room. “Gabby built this program, and it’s an honor to follow in his footsteps. This has been a great part of my life for 12 years.”

Clark called Price a great man but said he won’t try to imitate him other than his “caring for the players, his passion and his fire. That won’t change.

“Every player is going to felt cared for and that he has value. Ultimately, we want them to get a degree and go on to have success,” Clark said.

Clark thanked Husson President Robert Clark, Pergolizzi, his players, the coaching staff, school administrators, the athletic training staff and the Husson community.

“Without the current and former players, we wouldn’t have a program. It’s a great job and a great profession because of you guys. Like [New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick] said after the Super Bowl last night, ‘It’s all about the players.”

He was choked up with emotion when he thanked his wife, Jill, and Price.

“College [coaching] isn’t a 9-to-5 job, and it requires many inconvenient times for a family of five. Jill is an amazing wife and mother. Thanks for your constant love and support,” he said.

Clark said Price was the man who got him started in coaching and that he has giant shoes to fill.

“Words cannot express how grateful I am,” Clark said while trying to hold back tears. “How much I appreciate his friendship, guidance and love. We all miss him deeply.”

Price was not in attendance, but Clark said the two talked a couple of times before the announcement.

Clark said the major part of his job will be motivating players and getting them ready to play.

He said he will follow Price’s blueprint on both sides of the ball, including a run-first offensive philosophy that helps set up the pass.

“You’ve got to be able to run the ball to win, but we will also pass the ball and we’ve had some great quarterbacks like Cory Brandon,” Clark said.

Husson’s defense will remain aggressive.

Sophomore tackle Jake Cameron of Conway, New Hampshire, is excited to have Clark as his head coach and called him a great leader who is similar to Price in some ways.

“Coach Price was very passionate and had a lot of fire during practice, during our lifts and on game day. Coach Clark is exactly the same way. It’s going to be a smooth transition,” Cameron said.

Junior tight end Keyshaun Robinson of Brooklyn, New York, said Clark is well-prepared.

“Husson has always been big on hard work and making sure the players are motivated and ready to play and that’s not going to change,” he said.

In 2016, Clark was named the ECFC Assistant Coach of the Year after the Eagles (9-2) set a school record for victories and earned the program’s second NCAA Division III playoff berth.

The Eagles have won the past three ECFC titles and posted their first-ever NCAA playoff win in 2017, a 23-21 triumph at Springfield College.

Clark’s offensive lines have been instrumental in setting more than a dozen school records over the years. His special teams blocked 10 kicks and eight punts in 2017 and returned five kicks for touchdowns last season.

The Eagles will move into a new league, Commonwealth Coast Conference football, next fall.

“It’s a very exciting and dynamic time for Husson football,” Clark said. “It’s, arguably the best Division III football conference in New England.”

He said the team will have to boost its offseason commitment level to help make a successful transition.

“It’s an exciting challenge and, in the end, playing a great opponent every week will help us in the end. If we get to the postseason, we will be better prepared to face some of the best teams,” he said.

Clark hopes to retain as many members of the coaching staff as possible.

He began his coaching career under Price at Bangor High in 2000 and stayed one more season before joining Price when Husson re-established its football program in 2002.

He was with Price for six seasons and when Price left after 2008 season, Clark also departed. After Husson went 7-32 in four seasons under Niles Nelson and Sean Murphy, Price and Clark returned to Husson for the 2013 campaign and rebuilt the program into a powerhouse.

Clark played at Bangor, then played one year of football at Bridgton Academy before moving on to the University of Maine. The offensive lineman earned a degree in physical education before gaining a master’s degree in educational leadership in 2012.

Clark and his wife, Jill, have three children: Max, Landon and Avery.

Clark is the grandson of the late Nat Crowley, a former UMaine three-sport standout and high school coach (Stearns High of Millinocket, Deering High of Portland, John Bapst of Bangor and Lewiston) who has been inducted into five halls of fame including the UMaine Hall of Fame, the Maine Sports Hall of Fame and the New England Basketball Hall of Fame.