John McClamrock

JOHN McCLAMROCK, 51, died on 3/18/08 from respiratory problems arising from paralysis caused on 10/17/73 as a junior varsity special teamer with Hillcrest HS (TX).  Charging at a Spruce HS ball carrier on the opening kickoff, the 17-year-old junior broke his neck when his face struck the opponent’s thigh.  The tackle left McClamrock paralyzed from the neck down, unable to lie with his head elevated off a flat bed, or even sit in a wheel chair, for the rest of his life.  Doctors initially were unsure whether he would survive the trauma, but his mother, Ann McClamrock, rejected suggestions that the family place him in a nursing home or other institution for quadriplegia victims.  Instead she brought her son home and devoted the rest of her life to his daily care in his own bedroom.  She remained by John’s bedside day and night for the next 35 years, reading and watching television with him, feeding him, and tending to his health and hygiene needs.  When she left the room or went outside for church or shopping, it was only for an hour or two at a time. It was “a wonderful life together,” mother and son agreed.  For more than three decades, Ann never thought of herself as a hero.  “I’m just a mother,” she would say to friends, struck by her devotion.  Ann McClamrock collapsed on the morning of John’s funeral, and died eight weeks later.–“Youth Sports Hero of the Month: Ann McClamrock (North Dallas, Texas)”, MomsTeam.com 11/7/10, Douglas E. Abrams, J.D.

Cody Williams

CODY WILLIAMS, 21, defensive player with Santa Monica HS (CA), was 16 when he was instantly paralyzed on 9/11/09 while making a tackle.  The quarterback’s leg collided with Williams’ facemask with such force that his neck was snapped.  Most people with severe spinal cord injuries rarely survive a month or two.  It took 9 hours for doctors to stabilize the front and back of his neck.  When he awoke from surgery, he was able to move his left arm.  A week later, to his mother’s dismay, he had football on the TV in his hospital room.  “I’ve played football since I was eight – it teaches you a lot in life,” Williams said. “I still love the sport.”  Now taking night classes at Santa Monica College, Williams is raising money to purchase a specially outfitted pickup truck with a crane in the back and hand controls for the gas and brakes at gofundme.com/helpcodydrive

“Paralyzed Santa Monica High Alumnus Sets Sights On His First Set Of Wheels”, smmirror.com 4/3/15, Mariella Rudi, Santa Monica Mirror.

Corey Borner

COREY BORNER, 23, defensive back with DeSoto HS (TX), was paralyzed on 5/6/09 on the last play of a spring practice while making a hit with his head down. His C5 and C6 vertebrae were broken and he had surgery the next day. “I made a wrong hit…everything froze in my body.” He thought he wasn’t going to make it. His mother, Charlotte, says there are days when both she and her son cry. She preaches compassion for those with disabilities. Borner can use both arms and operates his manual wheelchair. Strengthened by his faith, he graduated from DeSoto, where his jersey was retired, and now speaks at schools, telling kids not to be scared to play football, which he still loves and watches. He would like to play football for just one more day.—“DeSoto team honors paralyzed player with retired jersey”, Fox 4 News 11/17/13, Heather Hays.

Victor J Wright

VICTOR J. WRIGHT, 54, was 15 in 1976 with John Muir HS in Pasadena, CA, when he broke his neck on a botched play. Vertebrae at the second level right under his brain were severed and he was paralyzed from the neck down. This type of injury can be fatal, but Wright survived, earned a college degree, and cofounded a nonprofit organization that provides relief efforts to victims of natural disasters around the world. An ordained minister, he credits his belief in God and the loving care of his family and friends for helping him to live 4 decades beyond his injury and inspire thousands. He has written a book called The Wright Stuff available at AuthorHouse.com.—From an overview of the book on AuthorHouse.com.

Defensive Dangers

“The majority of catastrophic injuries occur while playing defensive football. In 2012, two players were on defense and one was in a weight lifting session. Since 1977, 228 players with permanent cervical cord injuries were on the defensive side of the ball and 55 were on the offensive side with 44 unknown. Defensive backs were involved with 34.6 percent of the permanent cervical cord injuries followed by member of the kick-off team at 9.2 percent and linebackers at 9.5 percent.”–“Defensive backs at greatest risk for serious head and neck injuries from football”,  AANS (American Association of Neurological Surgeons) 2012.

Greg Page

GREG PAGE, 19, defensive end with Kentucky, suffered a spinal injury in practice on 8/22/67 and was paralyzed from the neck down, and died on 9/29/67. While doing a “pursuit drill” at half speed in shorts, shoulder pads and helmet, Page stumbled as the quarterback was shoved into him and snapped his neck. In 1966 he and Nate Northington had been the first black players recruited to the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Northington received the news of Page’s death from head coach Charlie Bradshaw on 9/30/67, the day Northington became the first black player to play in an SEC game. Northington suffered a dislocated shoulder in the game and, depressed and lonely over the loss of his roommate and comrade in breaking the color line, missed some classes and had his meal ticket pulled by the coaches, who had forced him to practice through excruciating pain, rather than having his shoulder surgically repaired. He left school and went home.–“SEC Integrated”, CBSSports.com 2/17/15, Sarah M. Kazadi. “UK’s Northington and Page: The friendship that changed the face of SEC football”, Kentucky.com 10/15/13, Mark Story, Lexington Herald-Reader.

Arthur Ayers

ARTHUR AYERS, 58, running back and special teamer with Consumnes River College (CA), died in February 2015 from health issues related to paralysis he had suffered in a game on 9/18/76. He had just scored on a sweep and was the outside man on the kickoff team. Ayers, the Menlo College ball carrier, and 2 others all going at full speed collided together (the ball carrier sustained a separated shoulder and broken ribs), with Ayers left on his back, eyes open, legs and arms unable to move or feel anything due to a severed spinal cord. Doctors told his family that had he not been in such good physical condition, the injuries might have killed him on the field. His sister, Connie Ayers, said, “We were told Arthur might live 10 years…and we had him for another 38 ½, a real blessing.” Steve Kenyon, who was on that kickoff team, said, “Art was a very energetic, very upbeat, very positive guy.” Ayers graduated from Pacific Coast Bible College in Sacramento and worked as a counselor through his church in Fresno. He lived a productive life and never bemoaned his condition. Consumnes River College dropped football following the 1978 season due to low participation numbers, the Ayers injury dulling the football spirit. Members of the coaching staff, deeply affected by the paralysis, never coached again at any level. “He was a 49ers die-hard fan,” Connie Ayers said. “He’d have a 49ers blanket with him during games. I asked him why he still watched games and he said, ‘Because I love the game.’”—“A football injury took Arthur Ayers’ ability to walk, but not his ability to live a full life”, SacBee.com 2/28/15, Joe Davidson, Sacramento Bee.

Rocky Clark

ROCKY CLARK, 27, running back with Eisenhower HS (IL), died on 1/6/12 from complications to his lungs and kidneys after having been paralyzed by a tackle in a game on 9/15/2000 when he was 16.  He replaced an injured player and 4 plays later suffered 2 broken vertebrae in his neck and a spinal injury, which left him a quadriplegic.  He received top-notch health care for 10 years through the catastrophic medical insurance provided by Community High School District 218, but by August 2010 he had reached the $5 million maximum of the policy and his medical needs were no longer covered.  Many quadriplegics die within 10 years after their injury because of lung or kidney failure, and Clark said he felt he was being punished for living too long.  After losing coverage, he relied on Medicaid, some state support and his mother, Annette, who did her best to perform the work formerly handled by 3 nurses.  The family’s pastor, Rev. Anthony Williams, said, “His battle shows that every American ought to have quality health care despite their economic woes.  In his memory, we’d like to see legislation passed so that in the future athletes will be covered by insurance for life.  That’s the most important way we can remember Rocky.”–“Rasul ‘Rocky’ Clark, 1984-2012: Paralyzed in football game, he fought losing battle to keep health insurance”, ChicagoTribune.com 1/6/12, Lolly Bowean & Ryan Haggerty.

Donnovan Hill

DONNOVAN HILL, 16, a defensive star player with the Lakewood Lancers (Pop Warner football), fractured his spine on 11/6/11 while making a head-first tackle in the Midget Orange Bowl championship game at Laguna Hills HS (CA).  According to a lawsuit that has been allowed to proceed to trial now that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Frederick Shaller has rejected Pop Warner’s motion to dismiss, Hill, though fatigued, was sent back into the game as a substitute and was hurt trying to prevent an opposing player from entering the end zone.  The suit states, “Donnovan immediately went limp and dropped to the field, unmoving.  Donnovan told those gathered around him that he could not feel his legs.”  Hill has minimal use of his arms and no independent movement from the upper chest down.  His mother, Crystal Dixon, claims in the suit that she suffered emotional distress from witnessing her son’s injury.  Pop Warner’s defense attorneys stated, “To encourage aggressive play in football is simply to encourage participants to play the game as it should be played.”—“Lawsuit against Pop Warner football over teen’s spinal injury will go to trial”, mynewsLA.com 12/17/17, John Schreiber.

David Edwards

DAVID EDWARDS, 20, safety with San Antonio Madison HS (TX), was paralyzed in a November 2003 playoff game making a hit on receiver Coy Aune of Austin Westlake and died on 2/27/08 of pneumonia.  The players’ eyes met for a split second just before Edwards broke up the pass by driving his helmet into Aune’s chest.  Both bodies came to rest on the field as silence descended.  Only Aune was able to get up, after a struggle and with his head ringing and everything hurting after the hardest hit he’d ever taken.  Edwards’ sister screamed.  The players and crowd chanted “David” repeatedly, but there was no response from him.  After a 20-minute delay he was rushed to the Brackenridge Hospital by ambulance.  Surgeons worked to save his life, put him on life support until he could breathe on his own, and explained to his family that he was paralyzed from the neck down.  Days later when Edwards could finally speak, his first words were, “How’s the other guy?”  This incident became the basis for the first episode of the TV series “Friday Night Lights”.  Aune wanted to quit football, but during a meeting with Edwards the safety told him, “No, you keep on.”  Aune gave Edwards his word that he would: “From then on I felt like I was playing for both of us.”  Aune walked on with the Texas Longhorns and played on the 2005 national championship team, which was invited to the White House.  “It felt like David was there with me.  And I was there for him too.”  When asked if he had any regrets, Edwards said that he’d do it again, that he never liked doing anything as much as playing football.  Edwards was helped by the Gridiron Heroes Spinal Cord Injury Foundation.  Contact: Eddie Canales, ecanales07@yahoo.com—“David Edwards—inspiration for ‘Friday Night Lights’—gone, but not forgotten”, ESPN.com 3/11/08, Gare Joyce.