PRP plays first football game since death of offensive lineman
PRP High School played its first football game Friday night since the death of offensive lineman Max Gilpin. The 15-year-old collapsed two weeks ago during practice. Witnesses say the coaches did not give players enough water breaks. One player says sometimes the players themselves don't drink enough water.
Even though Gilpin was missing from the PRP lineup against Ballard, fellow students wore his number on their shirts and paused to remember him before the game.
"Everyone's sad about it. We were all shocked. We're going to get over it and he's gone but not forgotten. We're going to have a good season, and we're going to represent the season for him," said Jacob Roberson, a PRP freshman football player.
Freshman defensive lineman Jacob Roberson says he now drinks more water when he's on the field. Gilpin collapsed two weeks ago on a Wednesday and died in the hospital three days later of complications from heat stroke.
Another player also collapsed, but survived. JCPS officials say players were running sprints during practice in 94 degree weather. That is one degree below the temperature at which state high school athletics rules require schools to take special precautions. Metro police are investigating whether the coaches are guilty of criminal conduct. Roberson says they're not.
"I was there. He gave us four water breaks. He didn't deny anyone water breaks," said Roberson.
Ballard High School cheerleaders decorated a banner saying, "PRP, you're in our thoughts and prayers." PRP's opponent also included condolences in a program insert.
"It's real sad about the boy. I just feel real bad about it," said Sue Shely, grandmother of a PRP football player. "I was relieved that the little bit of rain cooled things off."
One mother, whose son is on the team, says he knows the feeling all too well. The football player collapsed years ago while playing Little League Baseball.
"You can't make them drink. You can only warn them, this is what could happen if you don't," said M'Donna Farris, mother of a PRP football player.
PRP and Ballard High School officials were sensitive to the issue. A man who identified himself as a PRP assistant principal asked FOX 41's Julie Tam to leave, while her photographer was shooting video of the game. An off-duty LMPD officer doing security escorted them off the property.
A Ballard High School official told them she did not want the story covered. Meanwhile, JCPS is conducting its own investigation into what led to Gilpin's collapse and death.