As the Catholic Central High School community grieves the loss of a standout football player and friend, David Widzinski’s mother hopes he’s remembered for his wit, dedication, generosity and faith.
“It’s just a huge loss — we’re in a fog,” Barbara Widzinski said today from the family’s home in Northville, as her husband, Paul Widzinski, a lawyer for General Motors, and daughter Emily, 17, a student at Northville High School, attended a mass held in David’s honor at the Novi high school. “I just want David’s memory to live on. That’s just really important to me. He was an amazing son, amazing in so many ways. And I want everyone to know that.”
Barbara Widzinski went to wake David, 15, Monday morning for school, but he had died in his sleep. A spokeswoman for the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office said this afternoon that autopsy results were pending as officials wait for the results of lab tests.
David was the only sophomore starter on CC’s team and he played his best game in the Shamrocks’ 36-21 loss to Detroit Cass Tech in the Nov. 24 Division 1 state championship. He recorded a game-high 15 tackles.
“We don’t start a lot of sophomores,” said CC coach Tom Mach. “From the beginning of the year to the end he made a tremendous transformation from being a young guy who was just kind of learning and fitting in a little bit and then as the time went on he picked up things and got better and then in the middle of the season it kicked in and he kept getting better and better. Once we got to the playoffs he was contributing a great deal to our defense and he became a great player for us.”
“He just had a great sense for where the ball was going and he got to it. He turned himself into a great player within as year’s period of time from a sophomore that didn’t know a whole lot and finishing in his last game as a guy who made 15 tackles in he state championship game.”
Mach has been the head coach at CC since 1976. This is the first time he had a player pass away like this, and he was distraught over Widzinski’s death.
“This is an unbelievably sad feeling, Mach said. “It’s a feeling of shock, disbelief, sorrow. He was a great teammate and a great individual. He was just a young man that loved the game and loved the competition and excelled every time he stepped on the field. He was just a young guy that had a great wit about him and was well-liked by everybody. The coaches loved him. He was just kind of a guy who loved the game of football, played it well and gave it everything he had.”
David played well enough in the playoffs and the championship game to impress Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher.
“It’s a tragedy,” Wilcher said. “I remember watching film on him and thought he was a very good player. I was shocked when I found out he was a 10th grader. He had a real good game against us. We’re having a moment of silence for him. We’ll be talking about him.”
Sunday was uneventful, after the family went to church and David hung out at home, according to his mother.
“We have no idea,” she said. “I went to wake him up for school and he was already gone. And he went to bed healthy. He had a good day. The day before, there was no indication.”
The Catholic Central community mobilized immediately upon learning of the death. A handful of administrators kept the situation quiet, so the family could tell David’s older brother, Stephen, 20, a Michigan State University student, who was traveling back to Michigan Monday after participating in a mock trial at Yale over the weekend. They also called the parents of David’s closest friends and asked them to come to the school with their child Monday evening. Together, they learned that the standout football player had died. Later Monday night, the boys sent a picture to Barbara Widzinski, their hands in fists, surrounding David’s No. 33 on the Shamrock’s football team.
“He was very strong in his faith, and he just loved Catholic Central,” said his mother. “And he felt it was a brotherhood and those were his brothers there. The support from Catholic Central has been amazing. We feel the love and support from Catholic Central and our friends and family.
“He had a lot of just natural athletic ability, but he was always very humble, very generous, very loving.”
Widzinski said her son kept playing even though he suffered a broken hand in the state championship game.
“He had the most tackles on the team and just an amazing game,” said his mother. “He didn’t want to hear anything about that. Every time I talked about (his prowess), he said, ‘It’s about the team’ and it was a loss and how he was looking forward to next year.”
Despite his hand swelling, David insisted he wanted to attend the next day’s team workout – to be with his buddies.
“He begged and begged and said he wouldn’t strain it and would just do his lower-body workout,” she said. “And that’s what he did that Monday. He was just very determined and very strong in his convictions, and very committed to Catholic Central and the Catholic Central football team.”
Catholic Central principal John Huber posted an announcement about David’s death on the school’s website today.
“Our entire community stands with David’s parents, Paul and Barbara, his sister Emily and his brother Stephen,” Huber said. “Their pain is our pain: we are all one family.”
The school held a mass at 8 a.m. today for students and expects to have counselors in each of his classes. The football players also will be meeting as a group with counselors and school staff later today. Funeral arrangements, which are being handled by Schrader-Howell Funeral Home in Plymouth, are pending.
It’s the second tragedy in a year for the school. Tanner Cipriano, whose brother is accused of bludgeoning his father to death and attacking his mother and another brother, also is a student at the school. Tucker Cipriano and a friend are accused of using baseball bats to kill Robert Cipriano, 52, and injure Rose Cipriano and Salvatore Cipriano on April 16.
“The hearts of our CC community have been tugged in several different and painful directions over this past year,” Huber wrote. “We are confident in the prayers, love and support of the greater community, as we have already experienced over this past year.”
According to WWJ, the hashtags #PrayfortheWidzinskis, #RIPDavid and #CCFamily are all trending on Twitter this morning.