Clark on Injured Player: 'A Beautiful Young Man'

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By David Bush, Staff Writer
Posted May 12, 2017
If by BearInsider Staff or Contributor, this article is Copyright © 2017 BearInsider.com


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Cal rugby head coach Jack Clark addresses media at Robert Paylor press conference
Cal rugby coach Jack Clark, still visibly downcast about the injury to sophomore Robert Paylor that has left him paralyzed in the intensive care unit of a Santa Clara hospital, described the player as an "extraordinary young man."
In his first live public statements since Paylor was injured in Saturday's Varsity Cup Championship victory over Arkanasas State, Clark on Thursaday had no specific updates on Paylor's medical condition.

He did have plenty so say about the player himself. "He is recognized scholar-athlete on our campus," Clark said during a media gathering on the Cal rugby field. "He is a beloved teammate. He's that guy that you want to have on your team and want to have a lasting friendship with him off the field. He's a special guy.

"He's a big strong kid. He likes to play. It's not that often that an underclassman starts on our team. And Robert starting as a sophomore speaks the world of his ability as athlete. He's a baller. He's a beautiful young man."

Senior Russell Webb, who was close to Paylor both literally and figuratively in the Cal locker room, felt the same way.

"I was lucky enough to have a locker next to him. Always smiling, always one of the loudest guys in the room. ...He was never shy of hard work and that's the way he was in the classroom," he said. "I'm very honored to have met him and played with him at Cal. Our friendship doesn't end here, nor did I think it would have regardless of the injury."

All Clark could say about the player's condition was, "There is trauma to the spine with some paralysis. He's a pretty resilient guy and he's doing his best. He's trying to progress enough to get out of ICU and into some rehabilitation which is very important."

Paylor was injured early in the Bears' 43-13 victory. "When the ball goes out of bounds in rugby it is put back into play in what is called the lineout," Clark explained. "Cal was close to the opposition line, we won the lineout and were attempting to drive it into the try (end) zone and it collapsed. And Rob didn't get up."

Clark said Paylor was buried by a pile of players.

Webb was on the field at the time, and was not immediately aware of the severity of the injury. "When it collapsed the play went in the other direction and the medical staff was on the ground with Rob," Webb said. "At that time you wouldn't even imagine the worst case scenario, which is where it is right now. You just think, 'Get up Rob.'"

Clark still seemed stunned by the severity of the injury. He estimated that as both a player and coach he has participated in 1,000 games. "I've seen injuries," he said. "But I've never been involved in anything like this."

"It was a freak injury," said Webb. "It is the kind of injury that can happen in any sport. It's a freak accident that can happen, even when you're not playing a sport."

The team, which has gathered together several times since the injury, was scheduled to attend a prayer service Thursday night on campus.

"We've had meetings," Clark said. "And we've been together quite a bit. I think it's hard on the team. We have been making all kinds of resources available to them (the players) if they need to talk to somebody about it. Not surprisingly the team is really focused on whatever it is they can to for Robert. Now there is a recognition that this is a long-term commitment."

To help defray the medical expenses, which will be considerable, a GoFundMe web page has been established. The latest tally puts the money raised north of $400,000, with a goal of $1 million.

Webb said it will be money well spent.

"I know before the injury Rob was going to on to inspire thousands of people that's the kind of guy he is," Webb said. ". And with this injury that is what is still going to do. At this stage it is probably the end of his rugby career, but not the end of what he is going to go on and do as a man."

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