I never saw Tyrell Cameron play a down of football.
In fact, we never met.
The first time I had ever even heard his name was early Saturday morning when I noticed it on Twitter.
Unfortunately when I saw his name, it had a hashtag in front of it, accompanied by the letters “R.I.P.”
Friday night was supposed to be one of the most memorable nights of his life, as well as all the other high school football players in Louisiana starting off the 2015 season.
Instead, it became an unfriendly reminder to us all of just how unfair life can sometimes seem to be.
Cameron, a linebacker at Franklin Parish High School in Winnsboro, located almost four hours away in north Louisiana, died Friday night after being hit during a punt return in the second half of a game against Sterlington. Television station KNOE reported he suffered a broken neck on the play. He was transported to the emergency room at Franklin Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Just a freshman, he’s gone far too soon.
It is believed to be the first football-related death in Louisiana since 2013 when Union Parish’s Jaleel Gipson died after an injury that occurred in spring practice.
LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine emailed a statement Saturday about the tragedy.
“As a former coach and administrator I have had the unfortunate experience that both coach (Barry) Sebren and Principal (Brian) Gunter are currently enduring,” Bonine said. “However, as a father of three children, my heart breaks for Tyrell’s family. I cannot imagine their pain.”
Neither can I.
I don’t have the words to comfort his family or his teammates.
But maybe someone about 100 miles east of Winnsboro can. David Wilbanks lost his son a year ago.
Walker Wilbanks was a defensive lineman at Jackson Prep in Flowood, Mississippi.
He fell ill during a game in August 2014 because of a sodium-water imbalance, then died three days later.
“The main thing that helped us get through was all the prayers from the school and the community,” David Wilbanks said. “Over the past year, there hasn’t been a day where we didn’t get a call or a text or a letter in the mail from someone.
“ou just have to lean on your faith in God and lean on the strength of the school and the community. I’m sure the community there is going to wrap their arms around that family and help them through this. That’s the only way they are going to get through it.”
A grieving Wilbanks continued to attend practice and attended games last season.
“I felt like those kids needed to see me,” he said. “They hurt as bad as I hurt. I felt like life goes on and we were not going to give up. I found strength in those kids. They found strength in me.”
Returning to normalcy will take time, said Ricky Black, who was Wilbanks’ coach.
“Every player grieves differently,” Black said. “It’s a tragedy no coach wants to face. I said a prayer at the start of every season that I never lose a player. Then in my 44th season, it happened. It’s a defining moment in a coach’s life, and of course, the parents’ lives. It rips your heart out, and you have a hole in your heart for the rest of your life. You never get over it.”
Eventually, Black said, you try to move forward and return to as normal a routine as possible.
That won’t be easy.
But eventually, time heals.
“Tyrell will live on in the memory of those who loved him,” read the tweet sent out from the Franklin Parish Twitter account Saturday. “Prayers for his family. Support from throughout the state is greatly appreciated.”
On behalf of our part of the state, you have our support.
Keep your head up Franklin Parish.