Paralyzed ex-HS athlete Rocky Clark dead at 27

January 6, 2012 5:31:58 AM PST
Rasul "Rocky" Clark was remembered Thursday night for his attitude about life despite a high school football injury that left him a quadriplegic.

The south suburban man died Thursday evening following complications for abdominal surgery.

Clark was in the hospital for what would normally be a relatively routine surgical procedure to remove kidney stones. But nothing was routine for him. Clark was almost completely paralyzed since suffering a broken neck while playing football.

Clark's mother says doctors expected Clark to live no more than a decade. He outlived expectations, and in the process, inspired others on how to live.

The house was crowded with well-wishers Thursday night - friends and family who are grieving the loss of Clark, who was 27 years old when he died, but also celebrating his inspirational life. Burdened with almost unimaginable physical limitations, they say he remained faithful and positive.

"I'm gonna miss him," said Annette Clark, Rocky's mother. "But you know what, the Lord had something better for him to do."

ABC7 last caught up with Rocky Clark two weeks ago at his small south suburban home. His visitors were there to present a check for $25,000 to help with his care since he lost insurance coverage. It was a gift from the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame, whose board includes former Chicago Bear Emery Moorehead. It was one of many donations to Clark's cause over the eleven years since a football injury left him almost completely paralyzed and in need of round-the-clock care. His mother quit her job to take care of him.

"He's been through a storm... but right now the storm is calmed," said Annette Clark.

Rocky Clark remained a huge football fan - he was close to several Bears players and coaches, and he served as a voluntary coach for the Eisenhower team as well as a role model for the players.

"He was always happy, he didn't look at it as a huge weight on his shoulders. He reacted as [if] life was just regular - like he was one of us," said former Eisenhower player Ty Jackson.

Clark endured dozens of medical procedures and hospital visits over the last decade. For most of the time since his injury, he was restricted to his small room at home. Friends say he always remained positive, never giving in to self-pity.

"He was a man, although only 27 years old, who lived three or four lifetimes, and I love him," said family friend Rev. Claude King.

Rocky Clark would have turned 28 years old later in January. His mother is asking in lieu of flowers that people send donations in Rocky's name to the Gridiron Alliance, which he co-founded, and which helps paralyzed student athletes.

Gridiron Alliance website