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15-Year-Old Football Player Dies After Collapsing at Practice

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A 15-year-old Connecticut boy died in the hospital Tuesday after experiencing a medical emergency at football practice, WFSB-TV in Hartford reported.

Elijah-Jay Mariano Rivera, a student and football player at Windsor High School in Windsor, fell unconscious during practice.

“He was not engaged in any football drills, or tackling,” Windsor Superintendent Terrell Hill said, according to the station.

The coaching staff administered first aid to the teen until police and EMTs arrived to perform CPR.

“I looked over and he was just passed out,” teammate Maxim Copeland said, according to WFSB.

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“We separated, took a knee and prayed,” he said. “We got on the ‘W’ and prayed and took our helmets off and prayed and hoped for the best. We went to the hospital to try and make sure he was good and his family was good.”



Elijah-Jay was taken to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, where he died.

The teen’s cause of death was not immediately known, the Manchester Journal Inquirer reported Tuesday, and an official from the state’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said it was unlikely the autopsy would be completed by Wednesday.

Elijah-Jay was new to the school, having recently moved to the area from Texas, the Journal Inquirer reported. That is why teammates called him “Big Texas.”

According to MaxPreps, he was 6 feet 2 and 291 pounds and played offensive guard.

Although new to Windsor, the teen was quick to make friends.

“He was a great dude, uplifting dude. Every time you see him he has just smiles on his face. He loved to be around and just loved the community. He was a great, genuine guy,” teammate Chase Royal said, according to WFSB.

Friends and family held a vigil for Elijah-Jay on Tuesday night, placing candles in the form of “Eli” and “65,” his jersey number, according to WFSB.

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Teammates said they would carry his jersey onto the field for their next game.

Chastity Hernandez, Elijah-Jay’s mother, said her son was born in Forth Worth, Texas, in 2007, moved to Connecticut in 2010, then back to Texas in 2019, before moving back to Connecticut in June to focus on football and school.

“He was very excited to be there,” Hernandez said, according to the Journal Inquirer. “He always considered Connecticut to be his home.”

With four older brothers and three older sisters, Elijah-Jay was the “baby” of the family, his mother said, but he was also “the tallest of them all.”

“He was the most kind-hearted boy,” she said. “He was a gentle giant.”


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