suntimes
SOGGY 
Weather Updates

Gov. Quinn signs law requiring high schools to buy insurance for athletes

Rasul “Rocky” Clark former Eisenhower High School football player was paralyzed from neck down when he was tackled during game

Rasul “Rocky” Clark, a former Eisenhower High School football player, was paralyzed from the neck down when he was tackled during a game in 2000, He died in 2012 at age 27. | File Photo

storyidforme: 53081855
tmspicid: 8785012
fileheaderid: 3957437
Article Extras
Story Image

Updated: September 6, 2013 6:22AM



The bill that former Eisenhower High School football player Rasul “Rocky” Clark fought for from his wheelchair was signed into law Sunday by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.

Known as “Rocky’s Law,” it requires all high school districts in Illinois to purchase catastrophic injury insurance up to $3 million for each of its student-athletes by Jan. 1, 2014. Families are eligible for the money up to five years after paying the first $50,000 in medical expenses. According to the law, insurance cannot cost more than $5 per student and it is up to the school districts to pay for the insurance.

The bill is named for Clark, a Robbins resident who was 16 when he was injured during a football game at Eisenhower in September 2000. Two vertebrae were broken, and he suffered a spinal cord that left him a quadriplegic. At the time, Community School High School District 218 was one of the few in the state that offered $5 million catastrophic injury insurance to all its students.

After 10 years of around-the-clock medical care, Rocky and his family had exhausted the insurance money yet medical bills kept coming and his family had no money to pay them. He died last year 27.

Quinn spoke south of the Eisenhower football field to a crowd of Clark’s family members, friends, and supporters. He praised him as a “great American.”

“Our faith teaches us we will see Rocky again and thank him for a special life, an exemplary life, a life of service,” Quinn said, speaking in front of a scoreboard that showed Clark’s jersey number: 21. “He understood that it was his mission on Earth to make sure all of us understood that we needed to make some changes in our laws to take good care of those who suffer catastrophic injuries while playing high school sports. Rocky never wavered on that issue.”

Scott Ascher, executive director of the Community Alliance for Injured Athletes, called the law a “good first step,” although he wishes the mandated deductible was less and the catastrophic insurance was higher.

“In 1935, we got Social Security and the first check was for 17 cents,” Ascher said. “Things get straightened out over time.”

Quinn was flanked by the two sponsors of the bill, Illinois Rep. Will Davis (D-Hazel Crest) and State Sen. Napoleon Harris (D-Flossmoor). Harris, a former Thornton Township High School football player who went on to play in the National Football League, recalled his own playing days.

“Rocky Clark’s story could have been me,” Harris said. “I waked down this trail. I played on this field. I know what it’s like to sacrifice yourself on a Friday night or a Saturday morning.”

Also praising the law were former Chicago Bears tight end Emery Moorehead and offensive lineman Dan Jiggetts.

“This situation should not exist where you send your child out to participate and he gets tragically injured and you’ve got to fight the battle all by yourself,” Jiggetts said. “This certainly helps a great deal to . . . make this right within this state.”

Rocky’s mother, Annette Clark, spoke at the end of the ceremony. She said she routinely wakes up at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. and runs into Rocky’s room, thinking he is still alive. The new law gives her comfort knowing that it is what her son wanted.

The bill that former Eisenhower High School football player Rasul “Rocky” Clark fought for from his wheelchair was signed into law Sunday by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.

Known as “Rocky’s Law,” it requires all high school districts in Illinois to purchase catastrophic injury insurance up to $3 million for each of its student-athletes by Jan. 1, 2014. Families are eligible for the money up to five years after paying the first $50,000 in medical expenses. According to the law, insurance cannot cost more than $5 per student and it is up to the school districts to pay for the insurance.

The bill is named for Clark, a Robbins resident who was 16 when he was injured during a football game at Eisenhower in September 2000. Two vertebrae were broken, and he suffered a spinal cord that left him a quadriplegic. At the time, Community School High School District 218 was one of the few in the state that offered $5 million catastrophic injury insurance to all its students.

After 10 years of around-the-clock medical care, Rocky and his family had exhausted the insurance money yet medical bills kept coming and his family had no money to pay them. He died last year 27.

Quinn spoke south of the Eisenhower football field to a crowd of Clark’s family members, friends, and supporters. He praised him as a “great American.”

“Our faith teaches us we will see Rocky again and thank him for a special life, an exemplary life, a life of service,” Quinn said, speaking in front of a scoreboard that showed Clark’s jersey number: 21. “He understood that it was his mission on Earth to make sure all of us understood that we needed to make some changes in our laws to take good care of those who suffer catastrophic injuries while playing high school sports. Rocky never wavered on that issue.”

Scott Ascher, executive director of the Community Alliance for Injured Athletes, called the law a “good first step,” although he wishes the mandated deductible was less and the catastrophic insurance was higher.

“In 1935, we got Social Security and the first check was for 17 cents,” Ascher said. “Things get straightened out over time.”

Quinn was flanked by the two sponsors of the bill, Illinois Rep. Will Davis (D-Hazel Crest) and State Sen. Napoleon Harris (D-Flossmoor). Harris, a former Thornton Township High School football player who went on to play in the National Football League, recalled his own playing days.

“Rocky Clark’s story could have been me,” Harris said. “I waked down this trail. I played on this field. I know what it’s like to sacrifice yourself on a Friday night or a Saturday morning.”

Also praising the law were former Chicago Bears tight end Emery Moorehead and offensive lineman Dan Jiggetts.

“This situation should not exist where you send your child out to participate and he gets tragically injured and you’ve got to fight the battle all by yourself,” Jiggetts said. “This certainly helps a great deal to . . . make this right within this state.”

Rocky’s mother, Annette Clark, spoke at the end of the ceremony. She said she routinely wakes up at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. and runs into Rocky’s room, thinking he is still alive. The new law gives her comfort knowing that it is what her son wanted.

“With this, I know Rocky is smiling, I know he’s smiling,” she said. “He’s running now, he’s running now. . . . There’s no more pain, there’s no more sorrow.” “With this, I know Rocky is smiling, I know he’s smiling,” she said. “He’s running now, he’s running now. . . . There’s no more pain, there’s no more sorrow.”



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.