Originally Published: Oct 2, 2009 5:22 PM CDT
Oklahoma Sports Reporter
BARNSDALL, Oklahoma – Bill Gates could not believe one of his players was gone.
“This is the first time anything like this has happened to me,” said the Barnsdall Panthers’ head football coach. “He was one of a kind to me.”
Early Saturday morning, a car carrying 18-year-old Eddie Gonzalez sped off a road and crashed in Osage County. Gonzalez was taken to the hospital with major injuries. Monday afternoon in Tulsa, Gonzalez died.
The Panthers lost to Tonkawa last Friday night and dropped to 2-2 on the season. After the game, most of the players were pretty down. A few hours later, the reality of losing a football game couldn’t compare to losing a friend.
“When I moved here my sophomore year, he was one of my first friends,” said senior quarterback Kevin Bragg. “We’ve been friends ever since.”
“I knew him since the fourth grade,” said senior center Cody Allen. “We were like brothers.”
Over 500 people from the Barnsdall community showed up to Gonzalez’s memorial service Friday afternoon at the high school gym. Friends and family gathered to remember a guy with a heart bigger than his smile.
One of the comforting things to his teammates about Eddie’s death was that he left a piece of himself behind. Five of Gonzalez’s organs were transplanted, giving others a chance to live.
“That’s Eddie,” said Gates. “I heard one of the teachers say it best. Eddie would have said ‘take them. I don’t need them. Make somebody else healthy, happy.’ That’s just the way he was.”
“I love that,” said Bragg. “He saved other people’s lives. I think that’s so amazing.”
The Panthers now turn their focus to football, and playing the game they love for the friend they love.
“I wish that he was here,” said Barnsdall senior Dillon Hallagin. “I dedicated my season to him.”
“I’ve been in this for a while now,” said Gates, “and I can’t honestly remember a kid that had that kind of impact on everybody.”
“We love him.”
The Barnsdall team has plans to retire Gonzalez’s No. 64 jersey tonight. The school painted his name and number on the field at the high school and has sold shirts with Eddie’s name on them for tonight’s football game against Pawnee.
Read more about Eddie's death and how the community and school has responded.