C.J. Heckard was among Tyrell Cameron’s closest friends. They both played defense for the Franklin Parish High football team in Winnsboro, La., and were joking around before and during Friday’s night game, as they usually did.
Saturday morning, Heckard was left to remember his friend after Cameron died following an injury on punt return coverage against Sterlington suffered in the fourth quarter.
“The last words he said to me (during the game) were, ‘Show me something, C.J.,’ and I made a big hit in the game,” Heckard, a junior, told USA TODAY Sports on Saturday. “We would always joke around with each other talking about who would have the most tackles and the end of the game, and that’s what I liked about him. He was highly competitive.”
The cause of death has not been determined pending an autopsy. KNOE reported that Cameron suffered a broken neck, but Johnny Ogden, an investigator for the coroner’s office, said that has not been confirmed.
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Ogden said the autopsy is scheduled for later Saturday or early Sunday.
“He had a collision with another player and collapsed,” Ogden told USA TODAY Sports. “Life-saving measures were performed and CPR was performed, but he was pronounced dead (at the hospital).”
According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina, five high school players died last season of causes directly related to football such as head and spine injuries. Seven more high school players died from indirect causes such as heatstroke.
Odgen said the coroner’s office will interview witnesses and look at any video of the play to gather information to help determine what happened.
Franklin Parish Sheriff Kevin Cobb call the incident “a tragedy” and said anything beyond identifying that Cameron died from an “on-field injury” would be “speculation” at this point. “We’ll wait for the information that comes back from the medical report,” he said.
Heckard described Cameron as a “good player, friend and pretty outgoing fella.”
“My brother Tyrell Cameron will truly be missed,” he said.
The Franklin Parish Football Facebook page had this message on Saturday morning:
“If you only know Tyrell Cameron in death, and didn’t know him in life, then you truly missed out on what is good in our country…he loved his family, his team, and the game of football. He will be missed…the next time you come across someone of a different race, or background, or religion, take a moment to get to know them, because you may get lucky enough to meet someone like Tyrell.”
In a statement, Sterlington coach Jason Thompson said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Franklin Parish community during this tragic time. Life is precious and we all mourn the loss of this young man.”
Cobb said he met with some members of the family Saturday morning.
“I expressed to them our condolences and they have had a whirlwind of people of people expressing their support, through phone calls and social media and other means,” Cobb said.
Eddie Bonine, executive director of the Louisiana High School Activities Association issued a statement expressing his condolences to the family and community.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Well wishes have poured in to the school from schools around the state and beyond.