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Statement concerning Robert Paylor from Cal Rugby head coach Jack Clark

Coach Clark made a statement after declining media requests to be interviewed about the injury and status of Cal sophomore Robert Paylor.

Cal senior Drew Gaffney and his teammates are wearing the #TryForPaylor hashtag across their chests at the 2017 CRC.
Abel Barrientes

A new addition to the Cal Rugby kits this weekend (yes, they are still wearing kits made by Nike despite the Under Armour launch from two days ago) is the “#TryForPaylor” over the chest. Cal fans and other nice humans should continue to support injured Cal sophomore Robert Paylor both spiritually and monetarily via the GoFundMe website.

The official bars for the CRC this weekend in Philadelphia, Tir Na Nog and Con Murphy will be donating $1 per beer to Robert Paylor’s GoFundMe site. Supposedly, you may find Cal Rugby alumni and 2016 USA Olympian Danny Barrett there this weekend (when he’s not at the CRC).

Cal Rugby Facebook page posted the following statement from head coach Jack Clark on Friday night, ahead of the Golden Bears’ quest for a 5th straight Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC) 7s national title.

I’m here with our team in Philadelphia at the Collegiate Rugby Championship 7s [CRC] and I’ve had several media requests to speak about Robert Paylor and our team’s effort to win our fifth consecutive CRC.

The media have been very gracious in allowing me to decline those interview requests, as it is a very difficult time for Robert, his family and our team. I’m hopeful that this statement will begin to provide the information the media and dedicated rugby press have sought.

As has been reported, Robert was injured May 6 in the early stages of our Varsity Cup championship match with Arkansas State. Robert’s spinal cord injury has resulted in significant paralysis. He’s had an operation to stabilize his spine, after which he battled the onset of pneumonia, high blood pressure and difficulty swallowing, resulting in the necessity of a feeding tube.

Robert’s injury was preventable. It was the result of illegal foul play. There is end-goal video footage as well as photography that makes this indisputable. Those materials are now in the hands of USA Rugby, which has opened an investigation into the incident.

Throughout this truly difficult period, Robert has been a champion, battling every day to restore his health in order to be cleared by doctors for the next stage of his rehabilitation.

On June 1, Robert was transferred from his Santa Clara hospital by way of a medically equipped private aircraft to the Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado. Craig Hospital is a world-renowned spinal-cord injury rehabilitation facility.

Throughout this injury, Robert’s faith has remained unbelievably strong. He is a courageous individual with an elite work ethic. If anyone can make gains through rehabilitation, it will be Robert.

Our team and university are navigating new ground with a catastrophic injury of this type. We gave serious consideration to withdrawing our participation here at the CRC, but in the end, we decided it was important to meet all of the team obligations we had earlier accepted.

Although we are here in body, our hearts and spirit are with Robert.

I have been asked if we will dedicate our performance at the CRC to Robert. I think the answer is complicated. On one level, rugby is trivial by comparison. We love Robert well beyond a rugby context. Robert wakes up and answers a very difficult bell every day. Rugby’s significance pales in comparison to his challenges.

I am proud our players have had the will to push through their emotions and bring this season to a conclusion. I suspect that without Robert’s courage, our team would not be able to participate this weekend.

I would like to thank the media again for their understanding of my and our team’s limited availability.

We would like to thank everyone for their concerns, hopes and prayers for Robert. He’s in for a long road and our team plans to be with him every bit of the way.

Some key points

  • Robert Paylor’s spinal cord injury which lead to significant paralysis was preventable. It’s due to an illegal foul play that is being looked at.
  • Robert has already overcame some scary moments - pneumonia, high blood pressure, and trouble swallowing.
  • Robert has been moved from the hospital in Santa Clara to Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado which specialize in spinal-cord rehab.
  • Cal considered withdrawing from the CRC but have opted to meet all the obligations that they have accepted.

Although the Golden Bears are again one of the favorites to win the CRC this year, they face a tougher road than usual even without considering this horrific injury to a teammate. Both the addition of proven programs like St. Mary’s and Lindenwood and the other (more typical sports) season ending injuries that weakened an already quite young lineup have increased the difficulty to win this national title again. Four consecutive championships does not mean that Cal fans can take another national title for granted. The Robert Paylor injury is another hurdle for this side, but Jack Clark and the “boys” will NEVER use it as an excuse should the Bears’ streak ends.

Cal fans should take comfort in knowing that Cal Rugby will definitely give their all this weekend to make a run at the possibly hardest CRC national title yet.