Paralyzed ex-high school football star Rob Komosa has died, says a family spokesperson

March 18, 2013 8:31:49 PM PDT
A former high school football star who was paralyzed during practice 13 years ago has died.

Rob Komosa died of respiratory failure on Saturday night and his mother Barbara could not revive him, according to a family spokesperson.

Komosa fractured two vertebrae in 1999 after he was tackled into a unpadded steel fence post during practice for the Rolling Meadows High School football team.

The injury left him paralyzed from the chin down- and unable to breathe on his own. He was 18-years-old at the time.

A positive spirit and the support of family and friends helped Rob Komosa beat the odds and live more than 13 years after the accident.

Komosa's warmth and positive outlook on life in the wake of a devastating injury endeared him to countless admirers including friends and family who were inspired by his morale.

"He didn't blame anyone for what happened," Komosa's sister Ann Phister said. "He didn't have resentment toward anyone for anything. He still loved football. He loved all sports. And I think he did focus on the positive things, the things he could do."

Komosa also became a champion for raising awareness about football injuries.

He inspired many- like friend J.J. O'Connor, who broke his neck playing hockey when he was 16.

When Eisenhower High School football player Rocky Clark was paralyzed after he was tackled in a game, Komosa befriended him.

Annette Clark says their friendship meant a lot to Rocky who died in 2012 from his injuries.

She offered these words of support to Komosa's mother.

"I can't say it's going to get better because it hasn't in my life but thank the lord for the time you had him and be strong," Annette Clark said.

She said comforted by the fact that Rocky Clark and Komosa are in heaven together.

Together, Komosa, Clark and O'Connor founded the Gridiron Alliance, a charity which helped other injured athletes.

"It's a tough day for a lot of people," said O'Connor. "Rob affected a lot of people with his grace and positiveness. He was just a remarkable, special person. The way that he carried himself. You never heard Rob say anything negative, you never heard him complain, or feel sorry for himself, or ask why me."

Over the years, the community rallied around Komosa and his family. Among other things, they helped raise money for a new wheelchair accessible home.

When insurance money ran out, Komosa's mother became his primary caregiver, and eventually settled a lawsuit against Township High School District 214.

A no-fault settlement of $12.5 million was eventually reached.

On Monday, the school released the following statement:

"Our condolences and prayers are extended to Rob Kamosa's family and friends. In spite of his circumstances, he inspired so many people, including students, staff, and community members. He will be remembered."

Those who knew Komosa say they will remember his heart, smile and determination the most.

"He wanted people to be happy about the joy he brought to them," Phister said. "He wanted people to remember the joy he brought to others."

"I know right now Rob is probably jumping, playing and swimming. And probably playing football," said O'Connor.

A wake will be held at at Gleuckert Funeral Home in Arlington Heights on Friday March 22 from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. A funeral mass will be held at St. Thomas Becket Church in Mt. Prospect on Saturday at 10:30 a.m.