LINDEN, NJ — A New Jersey community is mourning the death of a promising student-athlete. The football player was severely injured during a game two weeks ago and passed away on Wednesday night.
CBS2’s Alecia Reid spoke with the teen’s parents on Thursday as they try to come to grips with their tragic loss.
“My son, I need my son here,” Lisa McClain said.
Completely distraught, Xavier McClain’s family is still coming to terms with his passing.
“He liked to play a lot of sports. He liked basketball. He played baseball. He won two Little League championships. He was an athlete,” Norman McClain said.
Dad said his son started playing when he was 5 years old. The sophomore was an exceptional athlete, garnering a lot of playing time on the varsity team. Xavier McClain’s dream was to attend college for football and then eventually go pro.
“That was his passion. That was his passion. That was his passion. You couldn’t deny him his passion, but they gotta do better,” Lisa McClain said.
The Linden Public School District says that while playing on Sept. 9, Xavier McClain was critically injured.
“All I saw is he got hit really hard,” sophomore Samantha Arce told CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis. “Seeing him go into the ambulance and everything, it was super-heartbreaking.”
The 16-year-old was rushed to the hospital. He passed away Wednesday night.
“No kid should ever have to go through this at this age. No kid should go through this,” Lisa McClain said.
“We’re still gonna look into what happened,” Norman McClain said.
“Something had to have happened for him to go to the hospital,” Lisa McClain added.
His mom says safety within the sport needs to be addressed. Linden Mayor Derek Armstead, who has a personal relationship with the family, agrees, saying the tragic event will bring about debate.
“That’s gonna come to the forefront as it always does when a child is injured, but, again, this was an accident,” Armstead said.
While friends and teammates continue to honor the teen, their next game is set for Friday night.
Meanwhile, the school district released a statement that said, in part, “The district extends its heartfelt condolences and will continue to offer prayers and support to the family during this difficult time. Counseling support for students, staff and families has been set up at Linden High School for anyone in need.”
In honor of their teammate, members of the Linden High football team have made “E4X” part of their uniforms. They are spreading the hashtag on social media and sharing a photo with the caption “Forever in our hearts.”
The mayor said the community would come together to see what could be done to honor McClain.