As the son of an enlisted man, Clarence Gilyard (sometimes billed as Clarence Gilyard Jr. ) might have been expected to follow in his father's stead. Originally, he attended the US Air Force Academy, but transferred after one year to Sterling College where he played football and first began acting. In 1980, the lanky actor relocated to L.A. and began to pursue an acting career in earnest, first in children's theater. Later, Gilyard became the first black actor to undertake the role of the cheerleader in "Bleacher Bums" before he segued into TV roles. In 1982, he joined the cast of the NBC police drama "CHiPs" for its final season before supporting Jim Carrey in the short-lived NBC sitcom "The Duck Factory" (1984).