"He was a tough kid. He was good," Wyatt Barber's coach tells PEOPLE of the 9-year-old

By Michelle Boudin
November 05, 2015 01:30 PM
GoFundMe

A 9-year-old Ohio boy who collapsed on the football field during practice this week died from a “cardiac defect,” the coroner confirms to PEOPLE.

Youth football player Wyatt Barber had one abnormal artery, the Meigs County coroner tells PEOPLE, adding that the boy was likely born with it and had never shown any symptoms before his death.

Barber and the rest of the “Super Eagles” had just finished practice in Meigs County, Ohio, Monday night when the coach says he looked over and saw Wyatt face down in the grass.

“He sat down on his helmet to drink water. I looked over and saw that he was down,” says Coach Jeff Stethem, who adds that he grew up with the 3rd-grader’s father and had known the boy a long time.

“He was a tough kid. He was good. A little guy, not very big but he loved football – it’s all he talked about.”

The coach tells PEOPLE Barber was on the sidelines for the last hour of practice. “He wasn’t involved in anything.”

The football league is delaying its championship game after the shocking death.

This is the latest in a string of student athlete deaths across the country this season.

Barber died Monday night at the Holzer-Meigs Emergency Department. A doctor was flown in from Columbus to help treat the boy and prepare him for a helicopter flight to Children’s Hospital 100 miles away in the state capital, but could not get him on the flight before he died, Wood said.

A GoFundMe page has been set up in Barber’s name by a teammate’s mother, Michelle Sisson.

On the page Sisson writes, “The football program at Eastern is heartbroken as we lost one of our youngest little Super Eagles.”

The coach says Barber was so excited about the upcoming Big Bend Youth Football League championship game. “We were supposed to be in the championship and it s all he talked about.”

The game has since been delayed but Barber’s teammates are anxious to hit the field in his honor.

“Every kid wants to play it to win it for him. I talked to his mom and she wants us to play and win it for him,” Stethem says.

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