CHICAGO (FOX 32 News / STMW) - Students at a South Side high school are in shock after learning that a football player on their team has died from injuries sustained in a game Thursday night.
The medical examiner has scheduled an autopsy for Saturday to try and determine what caused the death of 17-year-old Andre Smith. The Bogan High School Senior was hit with a hard block during the final play of the game between Bogan and Chicago Vocational High School. He walked off the field and was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center, where he died Friday morning.
Smith was known to friends for his smile, but after learning the news they struggled to process their sense of loss.
“He was gone too soon. Just laughing with him the other day, it's just unfortunate,” said senior Courtney Woodson, who called Smith a friend.
At school, many students had not even heard the news by the time school let out, but those who did struggled as they reflected on a classmate dying like that.
“I didn't really believe it at first, but then we heard from the principal I think, that he actually did die, so I kind of felt bad,” said sophomore Jose Villanueva.
Chicago Public Schools had grief counselors on hand Friday to help students process their feelings.
In a statement, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said, "For all of us at Chicago Public Schools, our hearts are heavy and saddened this morning to learn that one of our student athletes at Bogan High School has passed away."
Sophomore Trevon Jackson played on the JV football team.
“I am just saying it's sad, that's all,” he said. “It's never happened to me nor nobody.”
The news had Jackson's mother heartbroken for Smith's family as she thought about her own son.
“It's hurtful, because my son plays football, so it's really hurtful like, that could've been my son,” said Darnetta Hartley.
She said it made her question whether her son should keep playing, especially since Smith is the 7th high school students to die this year in the United States.
Garret Weston, the paramedic that first treated Smith, said he wasn’t sure what play Smith was injured on.
“I didn’t notice anyone come out of the game or anything like that,” Weston said. “I was on the home side of the field (Bogan was on the visiting side).
Weston said he was called over just as he was starting to walk out of the stadium.
“I was on my out and then they told me someone collapsed,” Weston said. “They told me he was hit in the helmet and he had a headache. He was unconscious by the time I got to him. I checked his vitals and gave him oxygen.”
Smith started high school at Rich Central and transferred to Bogan last year.
“He was just an exciting kid,” Cantrell Davis, a good friend who played football with Smith at Rich Central, said. “He liked to go shopping more than anything. He always said that money comes and money goes so you might as well go shopping.”
Smith played on the basketball team and ran track his first year of high school. He was hoping to walk on with the football team at Western Illinois next year.
“He was just a great kid, never negative,” Davis said. “He smile was just perfect.”
Another friend, Chris Jenkins, said Smith’s favorite artist was the rapper Future. Smith had two sisters and a brother.
“Harold’s Chicken was his favorite thing in the world,” Davis said. “When he walked in to the Harold’s in Matteson they knew his order, six piece with mild. He didn’t even have to say anything.”
An autopsy on Smith, of the 4200 block of 188th Street in Country Club Hills, found he died of blunt-force head injuries due to a football accident, the medical examiner’s office said.