Whether they knew Remy Hidalgo or not, members of the Denham Springs community on Friday mourned a high school junior who died while working to fulfill his dream of one day playing college football.
According to his mother, Hidalgo collapsed near the end of Tuesday’s practice, suffering from heat stroke. The lineman died early Friday at a New Orleans hospital.
“Today officially marks the most impossible day in my life,” his mother Ashley Roberson wrote on Facebook. “How will I get through life without you? The love of my life. My baby boy! You were loved more than you ever know. You were the best son, brother, grandson and friend. I wish I could take your place.”
It was a sentiment shared across town: from those who attended a Wednesday night prayer vigil, the small city’s mayor, the youth football coach whose tiny players hope to also one day play for the Yellow Jackets, for so long the only game in town.
At 6-foot, 5-inches and 285 pounds, Hidalgo aspired to play for a major college, and at that size it wasn’t only a dream.
At Livingston Parks and Recreation, Coach Tray Smith said a player on his team of 11- to 13-year-olds suggested after practice Thursday that they do something special for Hidalgo, who was at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans after initial treatment at Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge.
“One of the players, when we got done, he asked if we could pray for Remy and his family,” Smith said. “It’s definitely affected our team and the parents, and everyone in the town here. It’s amazing how something like that just bonds the entire parish, and even outside of the parish.”
Hidalgo is the first Baton Rouge area football player to die during a season since 2012. Dutchtown freshman-to-be Burke Cobb collapsed during a pickup basketball game after a summer football conditioning practice.
Cobb’s death was later attributed to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the leading cause of cardiac death among young athletes.
A high school player in Texas, Rue McNiel of Guthrie Consolidated School District, died Aug. 24 after suffering what media accounts called a “heat stroke” 11 days earlier.
Louisiana’s most recent high school football death was just over a year ago. Terrance Allen, a 15-year-old defensive lineman for Amite High, collapsed after a late night practice in June 2019. Media reports said autopsy results were “inconclusive.”
Several hundred students gathered at the Denham Springs High School football stadium Wednesday evening, holding candles while offering prayers…
Louisiana’s last documented heat-related death was that of Norris “Butch” Theriot III of Breaux Bridge in 1997.
The Livingston Parish School Board said three athletic trainers were at practice Tuesday and provided aid immediately.
After the announcement of Hidalgo’s death Friday, the school board said counselors would be available for Denham Springs students and faculty.
“Everyone is very saddened by this news. We all were praying and hoping for his recovery. We ask for prayers today for his family and this community as we struggle with the loss of such a special young man,” it said in a statement.
The mayor of the town of 9,753, Gerald Landry, said the entire parish mourned the loss of a “fine young man.”
“Remy Hidalgo was a proud DSHS Yellow Jacket, loved by all. The heartfelt outpouring of love from this community is a testament to the kind of person he was and the impact he made during his life, which has ended far too soon,” Landry said.
And the executive director of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association, which governs most prep sports in the state, said it was saddened by the news.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Hidalgo family and friends, the Denham Springs community and all student-athletes affected by this tragic loss,” Eddie Bonine said in a statement. Contract drills began late last week. Games are scheduled to begin in October.
Two of Louisiana’s other three football deaths during the last decade took place at Farmerville High, now known as Union Parish High. In 2010, Kebrion Morgan was taken to a hospital after complaining of nausea and dizziness before practice. An enlarged heart was cited as the cause of death. In 2013, Farmerville’s Jaleel Gibson suffered a fractured vertebra at a spring practice.
Tyrell Cameron, a player for Franklin Parish of Winnsboro, died in 2015 after being injured on a special teams play during the fourth quarter of a game.
All athletes at LHSAA-member schools must past physicals before practices begin. Just in June, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a law that provides funding for sports safety education, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation; emergency action plans; automatic defibrillators; and the use of wet-bulb temperature technology to monitor weather conditions.
The National Federal of High School Athletic Association also offers online courses on player safety.
Because of delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, LHSAA schools worked out in shorts, helmets and shoulder pads for over a month before being cleared for full contact drills and full gear last Thursday.