Mr. Clark, 27, of Robbins, had been in the hospital for about a week after suffering from complications related to his lungs and kidneys, said his sister, Dynetta Clark.
He was a 16-year-old backup running back on Sept. 15, 2000, when Eisenhower's starting running back separated his shoulder in a game at Oak Forest High School. Mr. Clark went into the game. Four plays later, he was tackled and suffered two broken vertebrae in his neck and a spinal injury.
Left a quadriplegic, Mr. Clark for 10 years received top-notch health care through the catastrophic medical insurance provided by Community High School District 218. That included nurses in his home around the clock, access to pain medicines and prescriptions and a storeroom of supplies.
But in August 2010, Clark was informed the $5 million health insurance had reached its maximum and would no longer cover his medical needs. Officials with Clark's insurance agency, Health Special Risk Inc., previously declined to discuss his case or their policies on claims and lifetime maximums with the Tribune.
At the time his policy ended, Clark said he felt he was being punished for living too long. Many quadriplegics die within 10 years after their injury because of lung or kidney failure. But Clark was able to thrive, in part because of the meticulous health care he received, his physician and family members said.
After losing coverage, Clark relied on Medicaid, some state support and his mother, Annette, who did her best to perform the work formerly handled by three nurses.
The loss of coverage also meant Clark could no longer afford to have helpers take him to his former school to give pep talks or volunteer as a coach. He had hoped to enroll in college art classes but could not pay for them after the policy expired.
Mr. Clark turned to art and poetry to help him cope with his injury.
"Life does not always give us what we expect," he wrote in a poem posted on his website. "We have fallen hopes and shattered dreams./ But what would life be/ if we did not have hope again?"
The family's pastor, the Rev. Anthony Williams, said Mr. Clark hoped his case showed the need for better health coverage.
"His battle shows that every American ought to have quality health care despite their economic woes," Williams said Thursday as he comforted Clark's family. "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."
On Thursday, Clark's mother was at the hospital with him, Williams said.
"Rocky was just tired," Williams said. "He's been fighting this battle for years. And his body just gave out."
Information on other survivors was not available, and services had yet to be arranged.