Final goodbyes to Rocky Clark this weekend

January 14, 2012 1:15:40 PM PST
People are paying respects Friday night to the family of a young suburban man who inspired many following a tragedy on the football field.

Visitation for Rocky Clark was Friday night. He died last week. Clark was paralyzed 11 years ago during a high school football game.

Clark is being remembered not only as a positive person, but someone who inspired others.

Friday's bitter cold did nothing to dampen the expressions of love for Clark as his friends, family and supporters attended his visitation.

"My cousin was a strong, strong man," said Clark cousin Channel Kelly. "He really, really loved football. That was just his passion, and I want him to be at peace, and I know he's at peace."

Rasul Clark, the man we all knew as Rocky, died last week after being hospitalized. He was 27 years old.

"He still was fighting, and he went on, and he didn't want to stop. He just encouraged other people to continue playing football, regardless of the circumstances," said supporter Towanda Gray.

The former Eisenhower High School football player was paralyzed from the neck down when he was tackled during a game in 2000.

"For the last 10 years, every time I saw him, he smiled," said Rocky's coach Greg Walder. "I know now he's looking down and smiling on us, and he's running around, walking around, dancing, drawing, doing a lot of the things he loved so much."

Rocky's spirit never waned even though he needed constant care, which had been covered by a school district insurance policy until this year when it ran out, leaving his family to face mounting medical bills.

That is the reason Illinois lawmaker Will Davis, who visited Clark a few months ago, is drafting legislation that would provide every student-athlete in Illinois with catastrophic health insurance.

"This opportunity to try to advance a bill on his behalf, and to honor his legacy, gives us the opportunity to continue that," said State Representative Davis, (D)-30th District.

Those who knew Rocky say, despite spending more than a decade as a quadriplegic, he was always positive and upbeat, with a smile on his face. His mother wants Rocky to remembered not with sympathy, but as a fighter.

Clark's funeral is scheduled for Saturday at 11 a.m. at the New Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in suburban Robbins.