Former UAB football head coach Bill Clark missing football is not exactly unexpected news.
For nearly 35 years, he’s coached football. For a lot longer than that, as the son of a high school coach, he’s been around the game. It’s toward the end of August, which means fall camp for college teams has ended, and the first game is quickly approaching.
“It’s hard,” Clark said. “I’d be lying if I say I don’t miss my players, my coaches and all the things that went with it. I have a chance to rest up and get my body well. That’s a great positive. That’s all the stuff I miss. That’s what I’ve done. It’s a family. That’s who I am.”
Clark’s spinal fusion surgery is about five weeks old. He’s walking and going to physical therapy two times a week. He had his second doctor’s checkup since the surgery on Monday, and everything looks good. The therapy, Clark said, is nothing strenuous. It’s “like, we’re going to do a light stretch, raise your hips, lower your hips, very light, very limited.”
But it’s a step, and that’s important.
“You listen to your body,” Clark said. “I think the big thing for me is don’t try to be a superhero, just heal up these bones that heal around these brackets. They tell me come December, those bones will be as strong as any bones in your body. Now, I’ve got my L4 and L5 opened up, and there’s a bracket in there.”
Clark got out of the house on Monday night. He attended the CoachSafely Foundation dinner at the Vestavia Hills Country Club. After arriving, Clark, who serves as the CoachSafely Foundation vice president, met for about 10 minutes with local media members. He followed with another interview in an adjoining room.
“Just me doing this, I couldn’t do this, I couldn’t stand on a hard surface more than like five minutes without having to sit down,” Clark said during the second interview. “I’m like a normal person now.”
He just doesn’t have his normal schedule. Clark keeps in contact with UAB interim head coach Bryant Vincent and members of the UAB coaching staff but doesn’t want to get in the way. He’s not there to see it, but he says Vincent is the right man for the job. He joked on Monday that the tape of UAB’s Saturday scrimmage at Protective Stadium “might be on an iPad somewhere, I might look at it.”
Clark and his wife, Jennifer, sold their house in Birmingham and moved full-time into their home on Logan Martin Lake.
“It’s just a great place to recover,” Clark said. “We’ve got great neighbors. Everybody has just been so nice. I ran into a guy getting gas today or texts or calls or notes from fans. People couldn’t be any better. They’ve just been terrific. The prayers are appreciated.”
His fall plans include football, just in a different way.
“I think just watching all these other teams play, that’s really what you never do unless we’re open,” Clark said. “I think every coach loves Saturdays. I think you’re going to peek at a Thursday night game, maybe a Friday game at the hotel. But you’ve got so much of your team on your mind. I think just that where you don’t have that game Saturday, you really get to see what other teams are doing. I’m a fan of the game. I’m a student of the game. I like watching what people do. Maybe, as I get better, I’ll get to go to a few environments. I got buddies around the country, maybe get to see places where maybe I haven’t got to play at.”
However, he’ll always have an eye on what’s happening on the Southside. He was the architect of one of the more compelling stories in college football. All along, he talked about the story being made into a movie one day. The culmination was one of the most significant victories in the program’s history.
He was asked if his body told him to, would he have allowed himself to walk away earlier in his time at UAB?
“I think I just thought through it, and it was almost like when I made the decision, it started hurting laying down, it started hurting all the time,” Clark said. “Did I just allow myself to say, I’m going to give in to this? I think, maybe, feeling great about staff, players, where we’re heading, we got into the American, the stadium is done. These are all goals I had for us. I’m going to allow myself to get well.”
His chapter at UAB is done. Are his coaching days done?
“I think that’s one of those things I just don’t know,” Clark said. “That’s why I didn’t say I wasn’t. I really don’t know. We’ll just see. I love the game and the things that go with it, so we’ll just see. But I’ve done it a long time, too.”
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