GREENSBORO, N.C. - Karson Cross was only 14 years old when he collapsed on the Page High School football field in the summer of 2016. He died the next day.
Now, more than two years later, his family and youth football team are keeping Karson’s memory alive. Football was his passion - and now his family is carrying that on, helping support the Triad Elite Ducks 13U Football team as they travel to Florida for the National Championships.
The only son of Kerry and Gretchen Cross, Karson was their world.
“Football was his world. He played other sports, but he would tell you that he played the sports to stay in shape for football,” said his father, Kerry.
The rising freshman at Page High School, died unexpectedly after collapsing during a football workout in 2016. He had a genetic condition called sickle cell trait. Doctors determined that, combined with the heat that day, exercise and a recent illness, lead to his death.
“We didn't know this could be fatal,” Gretchen said.
The Cross family says the loss of their son is a heartbreak that doesn't go away.
“Every day is tough. Period,” said Kerry, “You miss a huge part of your heart and your soul, so you try to make something positive out of it.”
The family set up a Karson Cross memorial fund. Now, the money raised will help send his former youth team to the National Championships in Florida.
“It is hard to forget him because he was an amazing young man,” said Coach Tony Walker, “We'll be representing him the whole time while we're on the field.”
Sporting Karson's number, 88, on their helmets, the 13U Triad Elite Ducks will compete against some of the best teams in the country.
“He would be extremely excited about what is going on right now,” Kerry said.
Karson’s parents, friends, coaches, and even those who didn't know him personally, see his impact in a growing memorial at Greensboro's Latham Park.
But it's times like this, they know, his memory will never fade.
“It’s kind of emotional for me personally,” said his friend Isaac Walker, “But to know he still moves people and he's not even here, it's just big to me.”
“That’s what we want, it's just to make sure people remember him,” said Gretchen, “That's a constant desire for parents, I think, that lose children. They just want to make sure people remember.”
Karson played in a championship the year before he died. He was part of an All-Star Team that competed in Florida in 2015.
This year’s American Youth Football Championships start this weekend and run through December 8th in Kissimmee.
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