By Teresa Varley
Steelers.com There are times when you see a player succeed and you just can't help but feel happy for them.
Sometimes it's a player who fought back from an injury or illness, overcoming the biggest odds out there to get back on the field. It could be a player who does incredible things in the community and you want him to do well in games. Or it could be a player who has earned your respect because he is committed to his family and faith.
Or it could be all of the above. And in that case, it would be safety Ryan Clark.
Some might have written him off mid-way through last season when he suffered an inflamed spleen following the Steelers-Broncos game in Denver, the result of a pre-existing blood condition where the high mountain altitude combined with dehydration caused the inflammation.
But you can never count this guy out. No way. He had surgery to remove the spleen and gall bladder. He lost considerable weight and looked drained and the normally upbeat Clark was withdrawn. But not once, no matter how down he got, did he ever give up.
"You stop thinking about football during those times. It's about getting healthy," said Clark. "Once I was healthy I thought I could be back. Once the doctor said I could play, I thought with a lot of hard work and prayer I could be back and play and I am."
On Sunday he will play in his first regular season game since that day in Denver when the Steelers host the Houston Texans at Heinz Field. There might not be anybody wearing the black and gold that day who will appreciate being out there more than Clark.
"I am excited. I am anxious to get out there," said Clark. "It's more a testament to how great God has been to me and my family. I just want to go out there and have a good time and show I am appreciative through my play. It will be fun. I will be a little nervous, the first one back. But I am excited and ready to get going."
Clark is back in shape, has the upbeat attitude he is known for back and will start at strong safety on Sunday. Not bad for a guy who didn't know if he would ever play football again.
"Coming back it was the coach's decision that I played well enough to start," said Clark. "After what I went through, that wasn't a challenge at all. Going into last year it was a concern knowing I had to battle. This year, I just didn't care. I am just happy to be out there playing."
Don't get him wrong about not caring. He loves every minute on the field, knows that none of it is promised, that tomorrow isn't promised. He understands what is important and football is, but life is more important.
"My relationship with God went through a lot during that time," said Clark. "Knowing he was there for me strengths my faith. My outlook on seeing my babies and wife every day is different.
"As far as football, it's different too. There is a lot less anxiety about each play. You know each play could be your last so why not enjoy it. It's a game now."
Ryan Clark will serve as the honorary chair for the Cancer Caring Center walk on September 20. Click for more information.