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Young football player’s death lingers at Legacy High

Updated July 6, 2021 - 10:57 am

It was noon Friday at The Corral, which is what the Legacy High Longhorns call their football field. A gentle breeze wafted over the intersection of Dorrell Lane and Commerce Street on the edge of North Las Vegas. In the oppressive heat, it felt like a hair dryer set on low.

It had been less than four days since Cajetan Chinoyelum Nsofor, a 13-year-old football player, died here.

The Corral was padlocked, but two young men appeared to be concluding a workout on the field turf near the 50-yard line.

Mistaking a stranger for a teacher, one asked if I had the key to the gate behind the south end zone. The young man said he had played football for the Longhorns, that it was OK for him to be on the field. He said his buddy had played on the freshman team before becoming a pro boxer.

Behind the visitors’ grandstand, a father and son dressed in black were performing drills on the Legacy soccer pitch. The father, Chaparral grad Jerrol Williams, had spent seven seasons in the NFL as a linebacker for the Steelers, Chargers, Chiefs and Ravens. The son, Jamell Williams, also a linebacker, had recently signed with the Arizona Cardinals.

They were not aware that a Legacy player had died Monday night during offseason conditioning not far from where they were standing in the heat. Same for the boxer and his buddy.

There was no sign of a shrine or memorial — not a single flickering candle, metallic balloon or heartfelt note marking the spot where a young life had been lost.

It seemed as if the teenager had quickly become just another statistic.

The thought of it made your chest feel heavy.

Casting aspersions

There were a few dozen messages on social media mourning the young man. Virtually all were general in nature. This being social media, others were accusatory.

It’s too hot to be practicing football … he probably got the virus shot. … maybe these kids should spend more than $35 on a physical examination at Walgreens …

People are much too hasty to jump to conclusions when a tragedy happens. Or point the blame at somebody.

Administrators at Legacy have said little or nothing. The Clark County School District issued a condolence as part of a brief statement, tasking the local high school football coaches with providing perspective.

The kids have been through a lot since the advent of COVID, they said. Now this. One more thing to process with the start of fall practice less than a month away.

Changes forthcoming?

“It’s a sad, sad situation,” Arbor View’s Matt Gerber said. “Obviously, our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, and then the program, too. It’s the worst thing you’d want to encounter.”

Foothill’s Vernon Brown said “my heart goes out to the family” and that he will abide by any changes in procedures CCSD or the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Associations recommend after the Legacy student’s cause of death is known.

“We want to make sure all our kids have their physicals, and all our I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed in terms of us practicing,” Brown said.

The NIAA requires all athletes to pass a physical examination before official practices begin in their freshman and junior years, but physicals are not required for voluntary workouts.

Centennial’s Dustin Forshee, who is married to an athletic trainer, said some underlying and potentially fatal health conditions — such as a brain aneurysm — probably still would go undetected with a more extensive exam, or be cost prohibitive to identify. But that is a discussion for another day, he said.

“Anytime you have to bury a kid, it’s a tragedy and puts things in perspective,” he said on this day.

By then, it was a little past 1 p.m. at The Corral. The temperature was 108 degrees.

The breeze had picked up to where the streamers atop the goalpost at the north end of the field were flapping in it. The heavy feeling in the chest had not subsided.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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