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Edwin Gordon, 14-years old


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  • Edwin Gordon, 14-years old

    Posted on Mon, Nov. 08, 2004
    Teen player dies after tackle in game


    [email protected]

    A teenager who loved football intensely died playing the sport Saturday night after tackling another player.

    During the second-half kickoff of his youth league team's regular season finale at Hollywood's Washington Park, 14-year-old running back Edwin Gordon darted down the field. The Washington Park Buccaneer plowed into the ball carrier for the Opa-locka Bunche Park Cowboys.

    ''It looked bad. It looked like he dropped his head a little,'' said Michael Spivey, vice president of the South Florida Youth Football League, to which both teams belong.

    Gordon crumpled on the field. Recognizing immediately that the teen might be severely injured, coaches called 911. A hush washed over the stands. On the field, both teams knelt and prayed for No. 5.

    Spivey and the coaches rushed to the semiconscious boy. ''He was breathing for a while and tried to say something,'' Spivey said. ``He was trying to gasp for air.''

    Between the time that Hollywood Fire Rescue arrived and when the crew delivered Gordon to Hollywood Memorial Regional Hospital, the teen died. The cause remained unclear on Sunday.

    ''Nurses told us that it wasn't his neck -- it wasn't broken,'' said Bucs head coach Cecil Bowe. ``His heart just stopped.''

    Gordon's mother, Erica Frederick, said doctors told her they wouldn't know why her son died until an autopsy is performed.

    Gordon's teammates on the 155-pound team, Denzel Chandler, 14, and Steven Rembert, 15, said the Bucs were down 8-0 at halftime, and Gordon was fired up. The teen had been continually clobbered during the first half. He was intent on making ''a big hit,'' Denzel said.

    The boys gathered with teammates at Washington Park on Sunday evening. They remembered Gordon, an eighth-grader at Perry Middle School in Miramar, as someone who had enormous confidence.

    ''Times were not always easy for him,'' Denzel said of his friend's life. ``He got relief from the field.''

    Gordon was given to spontaneous dancing whenever a hip-hop song came on, Steven said. ``He wanted to make you laugh like that.''

    The teen lived in Hollywood with his mother, an older brother and two teenage sisters. He had been held back in school and was ambivalent about football until this season, Bowe said.

    ''He was troubled, but he was just a kid who needed purpose,'' the coach said.

    Gordon seemed to have finally found that after two high school football coaches approached him this year.

    ''When they expressed interest in him, that was like a light going off for Edwin,'' Bowe said. ``He knew he had to start working harder on the field and achieving better grades to get into that high school.''

    Gordon was focused and improving his game. The season had been successful, with the Bucs headed for the playoffs.

    Like all the team's parents, Frederick signed a registration waiver for any injuries her son might suffer. But, Bowe said, she has no medical insurance.

    ''We're trying to do what we can to make up for that,'' he said.

    The league intends to contribute $3,500, with cheerleaders giving an additional $1,500, league President Steve Berger said.

    He'll ask the city of Hollywood and other park teams to help, too. ''We'd like to help the family with $10,000,'' Berger said.

    Bunche Park team President Lee Jones said the Cowboys are devastated. Counselors will be available at Bunche and Washington parks for any player who needs to talk.

    ''Everybody is crushed with this,'' Jones said. ``A thousand kids have gone through this league since 1995, and we've never had anything more than broken bones and sprains. We try to tell the kids to play safe, but things can happen no matter how careful you are.''

    Kendrick English, 27, offered condolences to the teen's family. A former Stranahan High School linebacker, English was paralyzed from the mid-chest from a spinal injury while making a tackle in a 195 game.

    English said he hopes more people would be made aware of the dangers of football injuries so athletes can make educated decisions about whether to play.

    Marc Buoniconti, 38, a quadriplegic since being injured in a 1985 college football game, heard about Gordon's death on the news Sunday. Marc's dad, Nick Buoniconti, a former Miami Dolphins linebacker and a Pro Football Hall of Famer, is a co-founder of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.

    He said an injury like the one he suffered when he was a linebacker for The Citadel could happen in ``a split second, anytime.''

    ''I played 15 years of organized football, and I made the same tackle a thousand times in the past,'' said Buoniconti, who was making a tackle when he was injured high in his neck at the third cervical vertebra.

    ''You can't always predict how you're going to make a tackle,'' he said. ``For this to happen now, right here in our backyard, it's sad. . . . It's a tragedy.''

    Frederick said on Saturday, ``I had a bad feeling about the game because it was raining. I didn't want him to go.''

    But she couldn't stop him. ''He loved football. That was his life,'' she said.

    ``I'm going to bury him in his jersey.''

    Services set
    Funeral services for 14-year-old Edwin Gordon are scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Ebenezer Baptist Church, 816 NW First Ave., Hallandale Beach. Arrangements are being handled by Eric George Funeral Home in Hollywood.

    Herald staff writers Jim Varsallone and Hannah Sampson contributed to this report.