MOUNT PROSPECT, Ill. (CBS) — After a more than 13-year struggle with the complications of paralysis suffered during a high school football practice, a young man from the northwest suburbs has died.

Rob Komosa was just 17 when an accident on the football field at Rolling Meadows High School left him a quadriplegic, and unable to breathe on his own. He slammed into an unpadded fence post when he was tackled during practice.

He died of respiratory complications on Saturday, according to longtime friend Don Grossnickle, an Arlington Heights deacon.

Grossnickle said, despite the unfairness of it all, Komosa never complained.

“Rob was a fighter. He inspired thousands of people, and it’s hard. It’s very hard,” Grossnickle said, choking back tears.

Grossnickle said Komosa’s mother and sister lovingly cared for him at their home in Mount Prospect.

“Rob’s father died a few years ago, with what Rob would describe as a broken heart,” he said.

Grossnickle said Komosa bore with dignity what one observer called a fate worse than death.

“I think that’s the unusual part of the legacy of Rob Komosa; is that he was always cheerful, and no matter how or when you met him, he had the power to lift you up,” Grossnickle said.

Komosa won a $12.5 million settlement from the Northwest Suburban High School District 214 in 2005, and was active in fighting for safer conditions for high school athletes.

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