Despite his immobility, Rocky "Rasul" Clark always stayed positive and inspired others to do the same, countless people said Friday.
Several hundred people turned out at AR Leak and Sons Funeral Home, at 18400 South Pulaski in Country Club Hills, for a wake for the former Eisenhower High School athlete who died earlier this month.
"My son did not feel sorry for himself at all. That's what I loved about him," his mother, Annette Clark said. "He was laying there, but he was still positive on life."
Clark was paralyzed Sept. 15, 2000 after being tackled during a football game against Oak Forest High School. Two broken vertebrae in his neck and a spinal cord injury left him unable to move from the neck down.
"He was so soft-spoken, but his spirit was so, so big. We're talking, like, bottle his spirit up and pass it around to other people. ... He was an amazing person," said his friend, Lori Allen.
Clark used his experience to teach others about overcoming life's obstacles. He was an artist and he was a mentor. He gained notoriety when he fought the insurance industry after a $5 million catastrophic injury policy to pay for around-the-clock care reached its lifetime cap a little more than a year ago.
His mother provided round-the-clock care for her son, and remembers telling him that she wished he could trade spots with him.
"He said, 'Well, I wouldn't be here every day like you were, because you know, I've got to play football and chase the girls,'" she recalled.
Clark's funeral begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at New Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, at 3620 W. 139th St., in Robbins.
The public is invited to attend Clark's burial at the Burr Oak Cemetery immediately following the church service.
A benefit fund in Clark's name has been set up at First Midwest Bank, 3737 W. 147th, in Midlothian.