A former Eisenhower High School football player who became paralyzed 11 years ago then battled sickness and a lapse in his insurance has died.
Rasul "Rocky" Clark, 27, was surrounded by family and friends when he died at about 6 p.m. Thursday at Ingalls Hospital, said Anthony Williams, pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Robbins.
"Some people are destined to be what they are, and I think Rocky showed all of us the importance of being grateful for what we have each and every day," said Williams.
Rocky made the seemingly impossible, possible, doing most of it confined to his bed. He was an artist. He was a mentor to the disabled, and perhaps most significantly, he was a fighter.
"He was my rock. He was truly an angel," said family friend Kelsey Hirmer. "He inspired everyone, not just me. I put him before myself some days."
Days before Christmas, Clark was visited by members from the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame, who donated $25,000 for his ongoing care.
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.
A $5 million catastrophic injury policy had paid for around-the-clock care since the incident, but that policy recently reached its lifetime cap a little more than a year ago.
Reached Thursday, his mother had a message for Clark's supporters.
"No matter how your day is. No matter how you wake up aching in pain, think about Rocky how he just said, 'Hey, hang in there,' his mother, Annette, said.
Donations continue to be collected on his website at RasulRockyClark.com. A benefit fund has been established at the First Midwest Bank, at 3737 W. 147th St., in Midlothian.