16-Year-Old Mississippi High School Football Player Dies After Collapsing During Practice
A 16-year-old Mississippi football player died on Tuesday after suffering a medical emergency during a team practice, the teen's school confirmed in a statement.
Ja Kobe Cooper, a sophomore who played both running back and linebacker for Shannon High School, was participating in a "routine" practice when he "collapsed on the field," according to the Clarion-Ledger. He was quickly transported to North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo where he later died.
"The Red Raider family is heartbroken due to the loss of one of our own," a statement from Shannon High School principal Jason Arledge posted to Facebook reads. "Ja Kobe Cooper was passionate for all aspects of life, he was extremely respectful to his teachers and administrators, and he was a joy to be around."
"Whether we knew him as a student, as a football player, or as a classmate, he was a valued member of our Red Raider family, and we will continue to miss him."
Arledge said the school had additional counselors for students and staff this week following Cooper's death. A candle vigil and balloon release is planned on Thursday at the school to celebrate his life.
According to the Daily Journal, Cooper — whose cause of death will be determined pending an autopsy — played in six games for the school last season and recorded four tackles.
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This is the second time in three years Shannon High School's football team has experienced an unexpected death, the outlet reported. In April 2017, linebacker Cam’Ron Billups died in a car accident.
Many of Cooper's friends paid tribute to him over social media this week. Classmate Kaley Rena Worthey called him a "beautiful soul" in a Facebook post.
"This beautiful soul goes by many names, but I called him Prince Coop because we had to change his schedule about ten times before he was pleased with it," she wrote. "He definitely liked things a particular way, and I love that about him! He had the most beautiful smile and personality."
"He was beyond respectful to all of our teachers and one of our many favorites. I’m going to miss his visits to see what snacks I had and his unforgettable demeanor," Worthey continued. "Ja Kobe was taken from us too soon, but the best ones always are. Prayers to his family, coaches, teammates, and our school. He will be sorely missed."