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Alum finds calling through tragic acciden

Oct. 28, 2005

by DENISE HODGES, reporter

It took only a few seconds to change the course of one Baylor student's future.

After a 2001 spring break cruise, Clint Mabry was returning to Waco with former student Ashley Furmann when her Ford Explorer's right tire blew, causing the vehicle to flip over 10 times across Interstate 45 and land in a nearby ditch. Furmann's vehicle had the faulty Firestone tires that were involved in a massive recall a year later.

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Courtesy photo
Clint Mabry and Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah attended the 2005 ESPY awards hosted by ESPN to accept the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
Furmann died in the accident. Two other people in the vehicle were injured. Mabry was thrust feet-first through the window, crushing both ankles. After one month in the hospital, nine surgeries and a year of physical therapy, Mabry's right leg still hadn't healed.

Mabry made the difficult decision to amputate because he said he could have a better and more active life with a prosthetic.

"I was just fed up after that year," Mabry said. Fortunately for Mabry, his decision has led to opportunities he never imagined. Mabry has used his disability to "get his foot in the door" in Hollywood.

Mabry's cousin, Josh Henderson, who many remember as Ashlee Simpson's former boyfriend, is a starring actor in Steven Bochco's "Over There," a controversial show on the FX Network about the Iraq war.

In the show, Henderson plays Pfc. Bo Rider, who loses his right leg in a land mine explosion. When Henderson read the script, Mabry came to mind.

Mabry landed the job as Henderson's body double for all the lower body scenes.

"I literally felt like a rock star on set," Mabry said.

Mabry was also paid to be an amputee consultant for the show.

As a consultant, Mabry offered advice to his cousin and others on the show as to how an amputee would react or move in certain situations.

"I felt a peace and calmness on set like, 'This is where you're supposed to be right now,'" Mabry said.

Since the accident, Mabry has used his disability to help others.

After graduating from Baylor in 2001, Mabry moved to California looking for a way to get involved in the community. He found his place with the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which raises money to buy equipment and pay for competition and training expenses for disabled athletes. Mabry has been with CAF for two years now as program manager, community outreach coordinator and spokesman.

While Mabry was on set shooting the pilot of "Over There," Dayna Bochco, wife of producer Steven Bochco, approached Mabry and talked with him about his work with the disabled. Within a few weeks of their brief discussion, Mabry received a $5,000 check from Steven Bochco Productions for CAF.

After the Bochcos' donation and interest in CAF, Mabry went to them and asked if they would put on a fundraiser. They held a special screening of "Over There" for 100 of their friends and raised more than $20,000 for the foundation.

"(It) shows the quality of people behind the show," Mabry said. "They're giving back."

This past summer, Mabry received an invitation to the ESPY Awards show. Two athletes connected with CAF were given the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage, presented by Oprah Winfrey.

Mabry managed to get a backstage pass and met with many notables such as Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Peyton Manning and Penny Marshall.

Mabry talked with Marshall and told her of his work with CAF. She gave him her business card and asked for more information about the foundation.

Time spent in California and on set of a television show has inspired Mabry to pursue a career in acting. Mabry is currently looking for more consulting and acting jobs. He said right now he may only get roles as a handicapped character, but ideally he doesn't want to play an amputee.

"I think I'll have to settle for those jobs until I get more experience," Mabry said.

Mabry also hopes to advocate in the media for the disabled. He wants to get more disabled actors playing the roles of disabled characters.

Despite everything that has happened to Mabry resulting from the car accident, he hasn't let it get him down. He has a light-hearted sense of humor about his disability. Mabry's Web site and license plate contain the word "footloose."

"I might as well have fun with it. Life's too short to take too seriously," Mabry said.

The accident inspired Mabry to skydive and participate in triathlons, things he never did before the accident.

"Just because he is missing a leg doesn't mean he has to miss out on life," West Dundee, Ill., junior Melissa Turnbaugh said. Turnbaugh is Mabry's sister-in-law. "Clint accomplished those dreams faster than he probably would have if the accident never happened."

Mabry said having a disability has given him a good icebreaker to get people to open up to him.

"I feel like my disability is so much better than what others are dealing with on a day-to-day basis," Mabry said. "This is a part of me. (I'll) use it to my advantage."

"He traveled a rough path to get to this point. Clint proved he can handle anything that comes his way," Turnbaugh said.

Mabry talks to youth groups and elementary schools about his life and uses his disability as part of his testimony.

"The accident changed his life direction, and he has been a Christian influence on many lives," said Landa, Mabry's mother.

"Clint is a hero to all those with a lost hope," Turnbaugh said. "Clint is living proof that God is bigger than any injury and He is capable of allowing the unimaginable to happen."

"The accident proved to Clint how valuable life really is," Turnbaugh said. "At first, it was hard to see God's purpose through the situation, but after a while it became very apparent. It can be just a matter of seconds before your life can make a 180 degree turn."

"The Lord has this set up all the time and I don't have control of it," Mabry said. "It took something this drastic to my leg to make me say, 'Hey Clint, you can be doing more with your life.'"