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mesaSteeler
02-04-2011, 08:47 PM
Ryan Clark's life and near-death story 'incredibly inspiring'
Matt Hayes SN Icon Sporting News

FORT WORTH, Texas Of all the ways it could have unfolded, of all the unthinkable and unimaginable ways, how in the world could it have come to this: A man who should have all the answers standing at the side of Ryan Clark's bed with none at all.

"The doctor looked at me," Clark said, "and said, 'We're going to pray together.' "
Ryan Clark's life and near-death story 'incredibly inspiring' Steelers safety Ryan Clark dons a Troy Polamalu wig during Super Bowl XLV media day. (AP Photo)

That was the day Steelers safety Ryan Clark thought he was going to die. The anemia that had ravaged his body from complications of the sickle cell trait was so bad so incredibly painful and real he was ready to go.

And by go, we mean, go.

"I remember telling God, 'If it's time, let me go now. I'm tired of this,' " Clark said.

It's hard to believe this gregarious man, this 210-pound athlete of cut muscle, was three years ago reduced to a 165-pound shell of himself after the thin air in Denver set off complications of the sickle cell trait so severe during a game vs. the Broncos, it eventually cost Clark his spleen, his gall bladder, and worst of all, his hope.

A month earlier, he was developing into a legitimate NFL star, a free safety with speed and punch who made it the hard way in a league that doesn't discriminate. You can play or you can't in the NFL; there's nowhere to hide those who can't.

And there's no explanation for those told they can't but never give up.

"His story," says Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, Clark's best friend on the team, "is incredibly inspiring."

After making it as an undrafted free agent with the Giants in '02, he was cut after two years in New York. After playing two seasons with the Redskins, he was allowed to leave in free agency. Clark then landed with the Steelers and played his way into the starting lineup.

He played so well in '06 and '07, Polamalu says Clark's ability to cover allowed him to freelance more and make game-turning plays. Think about that: The game's most feared defensive player, the league's defensive player of the year this season, says he reached his potential because Clark reached his, too.

Now think about Clark three years ago, laying on the bathroom floor in his hotel room a week after the complications in Denver, calling his wife and telling her he wasn't going to make it. A month later, after doctors located the infected organ and took out his spleen, he was lying on his bed in his suburban Pittsburgh home and couldn't get warm.

They put every blanket in the house on him. His wife, Sheila, pulled out her hair dryer, plugged it in and held it under the covers. And still, the shivering cold sweats continued.

Once they arrived at the hospital, doctors realized the anemia from the sickle cell also had damaged his gall bladder and removed it. The next day, when things didn't get much better, Clark heard words that brought everything into a sudden, surreal focus.

"When a man of medicine looks at your Bible, looks at your pictures and says, 'Let's pray together,' you know it's serious," Clark said. "I was like, 'Man, let me pray you go research!' "

He can joke about it now, but he'll never minimize the dire situation and how it made him appreciate life and the game and his place in both. Nearly 11 months after he was told he'd never play again, he was back on the field and started for Pittsburgh's Super Bowl XLIII-winning team.

Now, he's back for another run at glory in Super Bowl XLV even though the only game that matters is the game he somehow won three years ago.

"Every game I play is like the Super Bowl," Clark said. "Every day I live is like the Super Bowl."

You either live or you don't.

And there's no explanation for those told they can't but never give up.

Read more: http://www.sportingnews.com/nfl/feed/2011-01/steelers/story/ryan-clarks-life-and-near-death-story-incredibly-inspiring#ixzz1D2qVUIBx

Merchant
02-04-2011, 08:54 PM
Wow... I never knew he was so close to dying. That is inspiring. Great read.

Riddle_Of_Steel
02-04-2011, 09:10 PM
If anybody can find the story, Nick Eason had a pretty close one this season too. His story was equally inspiring (and the fact he made it back and played this season).