Annette Clark looks at a pen Gov. Pat Quinn used to sign the bill named for her son, Rasul “Rocky” Clark, who was paralyzed by a football injury while playing football at Eisenhower High School. | Casey Toner~Sun-times media.
Updated: September 6, 2013 6:21AM
The bill that former Eisenhower High School football player Rasul “Rocky” Clark fought for from his wheelchair while he was paralyzed was signed into law on 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.
It is named after Clark, a Robbins-resident who was 16 when he became a quadriplegic after he broke two vertebrae and suffered a spinal cord injury during a football game at Eisenhower in September 2000. At the time of his injury, 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.
Following 10-years of around-the-clock medical care, Rocky and his family had spent all the insurance money yet his medical bills were continuing and his family had no money to pay the bills. He died last year at age 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 lit up with Clark’s playing 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, Community Alliance for Injured Athletes executive director, called the law a “good first step,” although he wished the mandates 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 that she routinely wakes up at 2 to 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,” said. “He’s running now, he’s running now... There’s no more pain, there’s no more sorrow.”