WASHINGTON, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey high school star quarterback died after suffering an injury on the field, school officials said Saturday.
Three-sport athlete Evan Murray of Warren Hills Regional High School died after he was hurt in a game against Summit High School on Friday night. Murray had been the football team’s starting quarterback for three years.
A statement from interim Superintendent Gary Bowen said the school community is “deeply saddened” by his death. Bowen declined to take questions from reporters Saturday, saying a cause of death has not yet been determined. Authorities said an autopsy was planned.
People who attended the game said the 17-year-old Murray walked off the field under his own power after taking a hit in the backfield late in the second quarter. A short time later, he apparently collapsed.
Murray felt “woozy” after the tackle but tried reassuring his teammates he would be fine as he was lifted on a gurney and taken to a hospital, witnesses told the New York Daily News.
“He tried giving a thumbs-up to the rest of the team, and all of us cheered,” said Kaitlin Bell, 16, a junior varsity cheerleader. “Our coach was telling us he was going to be all right. We didn’t expect anything would happen.”
Coaches, students and community members gathered at the school’s football field Saturday for a memorial.
Members of the school community said they were shocked by Murray’s death.
“I can’t comprehend what happened,” said one parent.
Taylor Coughlin, a 16-year-old junior at the school, told The (Easton) Express-Times that she had first met Murray in the seventh grade. She said he was “an amazing student and an amazing athlete. He stood out in his athletics, his academics — everything.”
Coughlin said many students first learned of Murray’s injury and death through social media postings.
“A lot of people were in disbelief and didn’t want to believe it,” she said.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the New York Jets football team were among dozens of people and groups from around the country who posted condolences via social media Saturday.
Summit schools Superintendent June Chang said he and other district officials met with the Summit football team on Saturday morning, so the coaches and players could speak about what happened. They also provided them with information on support services.