It’s always nice to see a sports franchise do right by their athletes, and that’s exactly what the New York Jets did on May 25.
Abundance Performance shared the news on Instagram, tagging “mademan71,” otherwise known as former Jets fourth-round offensive lineman Cameron Clark — who was forced to retire after a career-ending injury that occurred during training camp in 2021.
“I appreciate the organization that drafted me for welcoming me back with open arms!” The post read in the words of Clark. “I look forward to adding value in player development!” In the accompanying photo, Clark stands in front of a New York Jets logo at the NYJ training facility.
Not long after, uSTADIUM relayed this story on Twitter, noting: “This is really cool by the Jets. They added former 4th round pick Cameron Clark to their player development department. Clark suffered a spinal cord injury in camp back in 2020 and was forced to retire.”
That tweet went viral with nearly 2,000 likes, while the initial Instagram post pulled in another 1,273 likes. Clearly, fans approved of this staff decision more than most.
A Spinal Cord Injury Cut Short the Career of Jets OL Cameron Clark
Clark was eventually waived by the Jets in April of 2022, so it’s great to see him back on his feet with a new football opportunity in May of 2023 — just over a year after his release and just under two years after the devastating injury.
Fans had high hopes for Clark coming out of college. He played offensive tackle at Charlotte, but the plan was to move him inside to guard and have him take over the RG position long-term. At the very least, the two-year collegiate team captain and three-year starter felt like reliable depth with valuable versatility.
Unfortunately, fate had other plans.
“In what appeared to be a routine play, Clark laid motionless on the ground for several minutes as members of the Jets medical staff attended to him,” Heavy on Jets reporter Paul Esden Jr. detailed in 2021. “He was then taken to a local hospital for further testing, but it appeared shortly thereafter that he would be able to return to the football field.”
That quickly changed as doctors determined the cause of Clark’s scary injury. What was first considered a neck issue turned out to be a spinal cord injury that could “risk paralysis” going forward.
That life-altering risk was enough for Clark to end his brief NFL career.
Although the young football player never posted a public statement on his retirement on Instagram or Twitter, he did voice the following on Instagram in April of 2022 — after a long hiatus from social media after his injury — “Visionary: has the ability to think the past, perceive what is now, and prophesize the future.”
Jets Altered Their OL Plans After Cameron Clark Injury
Jets general manager Joe Douglas promised to rebuild the offensive line when he first took over mid-offseason in 2019. His first draft was in 2020, and Douglas put his faith in Mekhi Becton and Clark as building blocks on the O-line.
Due to injuries, neither selection turned out as the Jets GM hoped they would.
Since then, Douglas has pivoted a bit, spending ample free agent money on veterans like Morgan Moses (in 2021), Duane Brown and Laken Tomlinson. His strategy hasn’t changed much in the draft, however.
Since taking over, Douglas has drafted at least one OL in every offseason — with premium picks spent on Alijah Vera-Tucker (2021), Joe Tippmann and Becton. The other selections were Clark (2020 with Becton), Max Mitchell (2022) and Carter Warren (2023 with Tippmann).
Outside of the new 2023 rookies, all of those prospects have missed significant time with injury, meaning Douglas — and Jets fans — will hope their luck starts changing soon when it comes to the offensive line.