SASKATOON, Sask. — Dan Clark has progressed slowly but steadily since being involved in a single-vehicle rollover on May 7.
On Sunday, the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ centre took giant steps in the recovery process by taking part in his first full training-camp session of 2019.
“It has been a process and it has been overwhelming at times with a lot of emotion,” Clark said on Sunday at Griffiths Stadium.
“There was a lot of sitting in the back and watching through the glass upstairs. This is where I strived to be. At one point, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do it and there was a lot of doubt that crept through my mind.
“I have a strong base that I need to continue to thank, like my wife, my daughter, my son and my family, and they always stood behind me and supported me.
“I don’t have any brothers or sisters, but this locker room is full of brothers who stood behind me and made sure that I felt like I was part of the team no matter what.”
The 30-year-old Reginan declined to go into details about the accident. He said he wanted to explain what happened to his teammates before publicly describing what took place.
However, RCMP said the crash occurred on a gravel road two kilometres east of Hwy. 2 in the RM of Colonsay. Clark was ejected as his vehicle left the road and rolled several times into a field.
A Riders spokesperson said Clark was wearing a seatbelt, but the 6-foot-2, 310-pound centre broke through it on impact.
Even so, he was able to return to the football field within a month.
“I believe that it’s 26 days after a major car accident and I was able to practise with the team,” Clark said. “That’s something that a lot of people don’t know if you can make it through and there are a lot of thank-yous. A huge thank-you to the first responders and what everybody else did for me.
“It’s just a blessing to be out there.”
Clark was returning from a community event in Cudworth when the accident took place. He was left with numerous scratches and a painful hip impingement. Once that pain subsided, he was able to practise.
Clark, who is among the Riders’ most-active players in terms of community involvement, logs countless kilometres as part of the Green and White’s community outreach programs. He is also an ambassador for Imagine No Bullying, a wide-ranging Red Cross program.
“There has never once been a moment in my life where I thought that I’m done doing community service out of town,’ ” he said. “It was one those things where it was the wrong place, wrong time.”
Yet, Clark returned to the right place — the football field — very quickly, considering the circumstances.
“It’s toughness,” third-year guard Dariusz Bladek marvelled. “He brings a mentality with a lot of perseverance.
“You talk about a guy who was in an accident a while ago and was getting thrown through his window. Now he’s out here banging with the boys? It feels really good to have him back.”
Clark has been with the Riders since training camp opened on May 19. He hadn’t been able to practise, but remained involved by attending team meetings.
“Even when he wasn’t on the field, he was positive in the meeting rooms and continuously putting himself in situations where he got the mental reps,” Bladek said. “When he came out here, he hadn’t skipped a beat. He’s a hell of a player.”
Bladek felt that Clark’s return was connected to the path the veteran centre followed to the CFL.
The former Thom Trojans and Regina Thunder standout made his CFL debut in 2012 and was a member of the Riders’ 2013 Grey Cup championship team.
“I’m coming off a (medial-collateral knee-ligament) injury and it still aches,” Bladek noted. “Now there is a guy who just got thrown through a window and has bruises all over his body and he’s out here pushing.
“For a young guy like myself, that can teach you something. That explains why Dan has been so successful in this league and has gone from juniors to being (the sixth offensive lineman) to being a starter to winning a Grey Cup. The last couple of weeks shows his mentality and what he brings to the football game.”
Clark was initially reluctant to share what happened with the public.
“There is so much anxiety riding through my mind talking (to the media) and the fans about it,” Clark said. “It’s different when we walk into that locker room, because everybody has an understanding about what has happened, They are able to hear your story out without speculating about what could have happened.”
Clark’s next step will be playing in an actual game. Head coach Craig Dickenson hasn’t ruled out dressing Clark for Thursday’s pre-season game against the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
“If he’s healthy, we’ll try to play him,” Dickenson said. “I have to talk to our offensive guys about that. He’s 100-per-cent healthy, so he wouldn’t be not playing because he wasn’t healthy.”
His health, after all, is first and foremost — despite the importance Clark attaches to football.
“Football jumped away from my mind and it was about being the best that I could be,” he said. “It hasn’t changed being a football player, because you live your life every day in the moment and there are young guys trying to take your job every single day.
“You have to take care of the moment and everything as it goes. Just to have that chance to see my son or daughter and to be able to walk on a football field with them is something that I will cherish.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019