Former Bears safety Doug Plank is counting his blessings after being involved in a nasty one-car accident at about 2 a.m. Saturday on Interstate 17 near Flagstaff, Ariz.
After filling his tank with gas while driving from Denver to his home in the Phoenix area, Plank lost control of his pickup truck on a patch of ice while merging back onto the highway.
Doug Plank was named Arena Football League Coach of the Year with the Georgia Force in 2005 and 2007.
"As I was accelerating, I just felt like the back end of the pickup truck I was in, I began to lose control of it and it started going sideways," Plank said via telephone. "I realized there was really nothing I could do at that point in time other than just ride it out."
A driver behind him reported that Plank's truck rolled eight times before coming to a stop just off the highway. The former Bears safety sustained eight broken ribs, a compressed lung and lacerations that required more than 40 stitches. But he knows it could have been much worse.
"I thought I was going to die," said Plank, who played all eight seasons of his NFL career with the Bears from 1975-82 and was the namesake of the team's iconic "46" defense. "I'm serious; I thought I was going to die.
"You start thinking about your life, your family, your kids, all that. I really didn't need that experience in my life; to feel like I was going to die. I survived with some injuries. But I look at what the other possibilities were and I just feel extremely lucky."
Remarkably, the truck landed in an upright position. With its doors jammed shut, Plank quickly climbed out of the driver's side window, fearing that the vehicle would catch fire.
The next day, Plank was shocked when he and his wife went to see what was left of the truck.
"I just started crying when I saw the truck not because it had been wrecked but my seat was the only seat in the truck where I could have lived," Plank said. "The other places were all compressed. If there was somebody traveling with me that night, I'm convinced they would be dead right now. When I saw the truck, I really felt like there was a spiritual force with me that was protecting me."
Plank, who is 64 years old, is recovering at home after spending two days in a hospital.
Known for his devastating hits during his Bears career, Plank likened the soreness he's experiencing from his accident to how his body felt on mornings after NFL games. And although he was involved in countless collisions on the football field, nothing compares to the car accident.
"This was definitely the most frightening experience of my life," Plank said. "People aren't used to getting turned upside down eight times in a row in eight seconds or less. I'm not going to say I came out of it feeling like I was some kind of tough guy Superman. It really shook me up, literally and figuratively. It just gives you a different perspective on life."