The first week of February is usually a tough time for former Carthage City Council member and resident Lujene Clark whose husband, Dr. Alan D. Clark, died of cancer on Feb. 7, 2006. This week, she doesn't have time to dwell on that tragic anniversary because she's helping prepare the Atlanta Falcons football team to play in the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 5.
The first week of February is usually a tough time for former Carthage City Council member and resident Lujene Clark whose husband, Dr. Alan D. Clark, died of cancer on Feb. 7, 2006.
This week, she doesn't have time to dwell on that tragic anniversary because she's helping prepare the Atlanta Falcons football team to play in the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 5.
“I've always said, these weeks in January and February are so hard for me and I've always said if I could just have something to displace the sadness around this time,” Lujene Clark said in a telephone interview with The Carthage Press from Houston, the site of Super Bowl 51. “We played on the Jan. 22nd and won the NFC Championship and Alan's birthday was the 24th, and I laughed and said thank you, you've given me something to help buffer the sadness. Then we play on Feb. 5, and the 11th anniversary of Alan's death will be Feb. 7. I told the (Falcons players), we have a guardian angel looking after you. He wants me to be happy so we've got some pull up there guys.”
Move to Atlanta
Lujene Clark, MA, LMT, MLD/C, left behind behind a rich, two-decade-plus legacy in Carthage when she moved to Georgia in 2011.
She and her husband married in 1987 and they moved to Carthage in 1992.
Lujene Clark served two terms on the Carthage City Council in 1996 and 1997 and 1999 and 2000 while working with her husband on numerous public health initiatives involving cancer, tobacco and anti-smoking efforts, children's advocacy, and most importantly, the fight against autism.
After Alan Clark died, Lujene focused her efforts on raising their son, Devon who is now 21.
In 2011, Clark moved to Atlanta to care for her ailing parents.
“I knew Devon was getting older to where he didn't need me at home as much,” Clark said. “And I knew I wanted and needed to go back to work, but I just could not go back into mainstream medicine. I had worked for physicians offices for many years, doing back office nursing and that kind of thing. But medicine had changed since I had been at home raising my son. It stopped being the art and science of healing and it became the business of illness. I just couldn't stomach the thought of being in that environment.”
A friend asked her to look at his back after he fell and told her she had a knack for physical therapy, which sparked something in Lujene.
A new start
She went to the Georgia Massage School in Atlanta, passed her boards, earned her state license, and started her new career.
Clark said she envisioned working with doctors and other therapists, but an opportunity opened to work for the Atlanta NFL team, thanks to a recommendation from her instructors at the school.
At the end of her third season, the Falcons decided to change contractors, and Clark, who owns Clinical Neuromuscular Associates, LLC, bid for the contract and became the team's soft-tissue therapy coordinator at the beginning of this season, working with Coach AJ Neibel, director of athletic performance.
“I said, I tell you what, you trust me with these guys and I'll take you to the Super Bowl,” Clark said. “It's kind of been a running joke, there's so much more involved in getting to the Super Bowl, but it was funny.
“Part of the arrangement was I get to hand-pick my team because I am not going to bring any sub-standard services to these players. They agreed and I put together, in conjunction with Coach Niebel, a plan and a vision and treatment protocols that we felt were best for the health and wellbeing, and the easiest way to achieve peak performance the right way that would serve these players long term.”
A new dream
Clark said the soft-tissue therapy can help players be ready to take those big hits on the field with a lower chance of injury and help them recover from injuries more quickly. It can also help them weather a career in a football, and leave at the end ready to live a full life.
“I told my players, when you retire at 40, I want you to walk away like you're a 20-year-old man, not like you're an 80-year-old man,” Clark said. “My goal is play as long as you want, have a long career, which is unheard of in the NFL. I want you to walk away like you've never played a day in your life from a body standpoint.”
She also finds it hard to believe that she's at the Super Bowl.
“As a matter of fact I had to cancel a trip to Carthage for the Chamber dinner because we were headed to the Super Bowl,” Clark said. “My heart is still in Carthage, but life just took me in a different direction and you have to be open to that. When one dream dies, you have to find a new one. So my dream just changed, it became very different. For a long time, I thought when Alan died, all of my dreams died, until life forced me to say no, make a choice, just keep going. And look at what doors opened, I'm sitting in a hotel in Houston ready to go do a job I love in preparation for my team being world champion. Wow!”