A Grade 12 football player died on Sunday, two days after he collapsed on the field during a high school exhibition game in Brampton.
Gene Odulio, 17, was playing defensive back for St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School when he was injured on Friday.
“He tackled somebody,” his mother, Nancy Barce, said. “He fell down, and when they piled up, he was underneath.”
Ms. Barce said she watched her son get up from the ground, but noticed that he was a little bit shaky. He paused to kneel down, and then got up again. But as the team huddled on the field to plan their next play, he collapsed.
He was rushed to Sunnybrook hospital, where doctors told Ms. Barce her son had suffered a severe head injury. He died early Sunday morning.
Mr. Odulio had played on the team since he was in Grade 9. His large Brampton high school held prayer services and provided grief counselling for students and staff on Monday.
“He was a very popular student, really outgoing,” said Bruce Campbell, a spokesman for the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board. “It was pretty tough. A tough day at the school, a tough day for the school community.”
Ms. Barce said she visited the school on Monday, where she met some of her son’s teachers and friends. “I was very touched, because I could feel the love of the kids. ... Of everybody in the school, how they loved my son and how they’re going to miss my son.”
Mr. Odulio’s teammates knew him by the nickname “Mean Gene,” she said, a reference to his first year on the football team when he surprised his coach and other players with his toughness on the field.
When he was in Grade 9, “Gene came up to [the school’s football coach] and said I want to be on the team,” Ms. Barce said. “And you know, Gene was probably like, 5– 5, 130 pounds. So the coach was saying, ‘Where am I going to put this kid?’”
But Mr. Odulio quickly proved himself on the field, she said. “[The coach] saw Gene’s potential, and he said, ‘Oh, this kid is a monster.’”
Mr. Odulio’s friends posted messages on Facebook and Twitter, offering their condolences to his family and saying they would miss him.
“MEAN GENE: You were the nicest kid I ever met,” Facebook user Cory Kids Boyle wrote on the social networking site on Monday. “I’m happy I got to grow up with you.”
His funeral is planned for Tuesday Sept. 18.