Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Ricks' Recovery an Inspiration

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Ricks' Recovery an Inspiration

Article excerpt

PATERSON -- Benjie Wimberly was as proud Thursday night at The Brownstone as he would've been if one of his own sons was honored.

That's how much the former Paterson Catholic football coach respects Rashawn "Rocky" Ricks, whose inspiring recovery from a horrific July 2004 car accident led to the Paterson Great Falls Rotary Club recognizing him during its third annual "Athletes Making a Difference" dinner.

The talented linebacker/defensive end suffered a neck injury in that wreck that ended his football career before his sophomore season at Rutgers. The Paterson resident also endured extreme emotional anguish as the sole survivor of a one-car tragedy that claimed the lives of his older brother, 23-year-old Marquette Ricks; his best friend and former Paterson Catholic teammate, 19-year-old Jordan Cleaves; and another close friend, 21-year-old Donald Beal.

Nearly eight years later, Ricks is a child-care worker supervisor at Kilbarchan Residential Treatment Center, a Youth Consultation Services group home in Paterson for males ages 13-18. Ricks also joined Wimberly's staff at Hackensack High School last month as a defensive line coach.

"It takes a special person to deal with a situation where you lose your brother and your best friend and don't fold it up," said Wimberly, a state assemblyman (D-Paterson) who was honored Thursday night as well. "He has done well for himself. Many people go through a situation like that and never recover, not only physically, but never recover mentally. He has done more than you can ask for."

Ricks spent nearly a week at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center after the crash. Cleaves lost control of his Dodge Stratus and crashed into a utility pole on Route 20 in Paterson as the four men returned home from a Meadowlands Fair fireworks display.

Ricks, 26, credits his mother, Tammy Ricks-Pough, and Cleaves' mom, Rhonda Thompson, with helping him recuperate mentally from the worst night of his life.

"They helped me realize that there was nothing I could do to change that night, so I had to move on with my life," Ricks said. "They were the backbone to help me move forward. …

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