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'No excuses': One SOU football player's inspirational road to recovery

After breaking his leg in a freak accident, SOU punter Jaxon Clark started living by two simple words: 'no excuses.'

Posted: Mar 26, 2020 1:01 AM
Updated: Mar 29, 2020 10:37 AM

GRANTS PASS, Ore. -- Southern Oregon punter Jaxon Clark is working out inside his Grants Pass home.

The fears over COVID-19 continue to encourage social distancing around the nation. This has led many Americans to do the same thing that Clark is doing.

Clark rides his exercise bike. He slides his feet under the base of the couch for leverage while doing sit-ups. He takes part in a "See 50, Do 50" challenge that circulates social media, which means he does 50 push-ups. Sometimes, he takes his bike for a ride through the Grants Pass trails behind his house. 

It all seems like just a normal, self-quarantined workout. 

However, Clark is in a much more unusual situation.

Clark is used to being in control of field position. He recalls what is like to have the pressure of being a punter. That pressure is rarely noticed by fans and media.

"There is definitely a lot of pressure that has gone unnoticed for a while," said Clark. "There is a lot of pressure that goes into that. You have to catch it and get it off, and you still have to have a good punt and get it down there."

Clark was doing his job in stellar fashion. It would not be unusual to hear fans yell "Great kick!"

Then everything changed on April 12, 2019. It was the first day of full pads at Southern Oregon spring practice. Clark was standing on the sideline watching drills. Two players came crashing to the sideline and fell into several different players. One of the tumbling players landed on Clark's right leg. 

Clark suffered a broken right leg. To make things worse, he kicks with his right leg.

"I looked down and saw that my leg was folded in half. I knew that was not good." said Clark.

Clark started a series of surgeries to repair the broken bone. He now faces uncertainty if he will ever be able to play again.

The injured punter started doing other jobs around the football program while rehabbing his leg.

He began acting as the team photographer. Throughout fall camp and the entire 2019 season, wherever SOU football players where, you could also find Clark carrying his camera.

He started to use his passion for film and photography to improve on his other passion, coaching. 

"So this year is pretty interesting because my whole goal when I am done with school is to be a special teams coordinator. I want to get into coaching. Coaching has always been my passion since I was younger." said Clark. 

During the entire 2019 season, Clark would assist with film breakdown, sometimes using film that he took. He was willing to fill whatever role the coaches asked of him.

With the road to recovery moving strong, more change hit the scene.

On March 16, 2020, the NAIA canceled all spring sports and activities due to concerns over the coronavirus. This meant that spring football would be drastically different. 

When rehabbing a broken bone, there is a lot of meetings with physical therapists and trainers. The cancelation of all spring activities, along with the world of social distancing, Clark is left with little access to those trainers. He still goes to a trainer several times a week, but it is nowhere near the normal routine. 

Jackson Clark lives by a simple rule though. That rule is "no excuses." 

"That is kind of the way I was raised you know? There are no excuses. There are people who really just have one leg. They are out there making the best of every situation. I feel like I am not exempt to that at all." said Clark. 

So, Clark is continuing to push himself. He is working out alone, through the pain of a recovering leg. 

Along the way, he is trying to inspire the people around him to keep moving through a tough time for the nation. 

"Today we are in a really strange time in the world. I think that, no matter what, you have to get it done. We have to keep moving forward. There should not be any excuses." said Clark.

The time table for his return is still up in the air. The 2020 season will be Clark's senior season. If he is to get back on the field, it will have to be during the upcoming year. However, Clark is willing to sacrifice a lot to get back on the gridiron. 

"I am doing everything I can. I would love to be back. I would give my other leg just to be back for one more game. I miss it so much. After everything that I have gone through. I am going to do everything I can to be back and as long as I can start running I should be good. I will be on the field one way or another. Whether it is coaching or playing. I will be back. So, I am excited."

A video story featuring Jaxon Clark's journey is above.

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