2015-10-07 / Front Page

Community mourns loss of football player

By Anne Marie Kyzer

Rodderick "Rod" Williams Rodderick "Rod" Williams Two weeks after collapsing on the practice field at Burke County High School, a beloved member of the Bears football team passed away Monday evening.

Roderick "Rod" Williams, a junior lineman, had been hospitalized at the Children's Hospital of Georgia since the incident and was surrounded by his family, pastor, close friends and coaches the day he died.

As the word spread among his classmates and community, grief-stricken students organized a prayer vigil held Tuesday morning before school for their friend who’d touched so many of them as a tuba player in the Pride of Burke County’s symphonic band, a member of the Bears football team and a spirited leader in their school. He was also an active member of Roberson Grove Baptist Church.

“ He was ‘ that guy’,” Bears Head Coach Eric Parker said after talking with his team Tuesday morning. “He was just a well-rounded, all-American kid. Everyone loved to be around him.”

A dozen or more pastors were on hand at the school Tuesday along with a number of counselors as Bears Chaplain Rev. Clary Dishmond and Coach Parker spoke with Rod’s teammates and as the entire student body absorbed the news.

BCHS Principal Sam Adkins said the heartbreak was deep because of Rod’s influence.

“He was the kind of student you wanted in your school,” Adkins said. “He was friendly and energetic and drew other kids to him. He was just a positive influence.”

Rod’s battle for his life began when his heart stopped just as football practice began on Sept. 22.

“They were just starting a drill when he collapsed,” Coach Parker said, noting Rod had not complained of feeling bad earlier. “It was obvious right away he was in trouble. We are blessed that our board hires an athletic trainer that is on campus for all of our sports practices and we have several coaches who are certified in CPR.”

Trainer Jonathan Howard administered CPR until Rod was transported by ambulance to Burke Medical Center, where his heartbeat could be found again. A team from GRU Medical Center came here and then transported him to Augusta, where he’d spent most of the past two weeks in the intensive care unit.

Though there has been mention of a hereditary heart condition in Rod’s family, Burke County Deputy Coroner Val Prescott said the cause of death has not yet been determined.

“Ever since it happened it’s been tough, but we were holding out hope for a recovery so he could be back with us, whether as a football player or not. That just wasn’t the good Lord’s plan,” Coach Parker said. “It’s like losing a family member.”

Adkins and Parker both touched on the outpouring of support that began with Rod’s medical treatment at the local hospital and throughout Rod’s two week hospitalization when his mother remained by his side.

“This community reminds you of the advantages of being in a small town where everyone is so tightknit,” Coach Parker said.

The funeral is planned for Saturday, Oct. 10, at 1 p.m. in the J.D. Smith Auditorium at Burke County High School.

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