Athlete Dies After Football Practice - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

08/19/05 - Nacogdoches

Athlete Dies After Football Practice

Kevin Wallace Kevin Wallace

by Donna McCollum

Kevin Wallace, 14, loved sports and never showed signs of any health problems. He just had a physical on Wednesday. It indicated no problems. His autopsy revealed a heart malfunction.

NISD Superintendent Dr. Tony Riehl said, "All I told the mother that I would say is five words. The death was due to cardiac arrhythmia." Wallace's physician, Dr. W. E. Furniss, explained. "The best way probably to describe it is the wiring in the heart is not exactly like it should be. The exercise is a factor. Heat was probably not a factor in this particular youngster."

Wallace played football and basketball before starting the new season on Thursday. He dreamed of becoming an NFL player. Some of Kevin Wallace's teammates have the same dream, but they are now learning how to deal with grief.

For Kevin's family, strength comes from knowing so many people are so supportive. His grandmother, Linda Wallace, held up pictures of her grandson. "This is his original picture when he was at McMichael Middle School. He was playing basketball." She treasures the very few pictures the family has of her grandson. They portray years of smiles and future dreams.

Kevin's mother grieves in her son's bedroom. Wallace shares her message. "She just wanted everyone to know he fought real hard and she wanted to thank everybody."

The practice field will not be used on Friday but, the day before, parents and players were along the sideline when the unexpected occurred. Teammate Alex Adkison said, "He gave 100% the whole time and then he collapsed after running a couple of wind sprints."

Elaine Adkison watched as players and parents came to the boy's aide. "The boy was not breathing. My fiancé started mouth to mouth on him, and we started bathing his arms with cool water to cool him down."

Wallace was taken to Memorial Hospital, where a team of doctors worked for hours to save the teen. Furniss said, "We were unable to sustain a good heartbeat and adequate pressure to diffuse his brain and other organs." Riehl said, "There was no way possible that any of the coaches could have predicted anything could have happened in this situation."

Counselors began the job of helping teammates to carry on. Pastor James Ervin described his meeting. "They were hugging each other, embracing one another, consoling each other, and pretty strong. I think that's going to help us get through this."

A tree was brought to McMichael Middle School to be planted in Kevin's memory. Frederick Sparks remembers his best friend fondly. "He was a good kid. Never in trouble. Played sports all the time, and [was a] pretty good kid."

Players plan their own tributes. Adkison said, "We all decided to turn Kevin's death into something positive and we dedicated the season for him." Another teammate, Branden Rich said, "Coaches told us to be strong, and we all have to stay with the coaches and the family. Our prayers are with them all."

Those prayers will also help the family who lost so much, so soon. Wallace's grandmother said tearfully, "He was well loved by everyone. Just keep him in your thoughts and prayers because he was such a good child."

Kevin Wallace's funeral arrangements are pending at Sid Roberts Funeral Home. The Wallaces attend a small country church. Several bigger churches have offered their sanctuaries because of the large crowd.

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