GRAVETTE A Gravette High School junior football player died last Wednesday morning from a medical condition not related to football, Gravette Superintendent Andrea Kelly confirmed Wednesday afternoon.
A candlelight service was held Wednesday night for Casey Russell, a junior who started at right tackle on the football team. Russell started feeling ill the previous week and was held out of the game in Wellington, Kan., Sept. 18 because of back pain. The problem didn't seem serious until the following Tuesday, when he went to the doctor. Russell was in renal failure and went to the emergency surgery.
During surgery, a staph infection was discovered. He was flown from Bentonville to Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Russell never recovered from the anesthesia, Kelly said. He was pronounced dead around 11 a.m. last Wednesday.
Kelly said that there is no immediate concern for the safety of other students because there was no open wound that would allow the staph infection to betransferred. The school took precautionary measures and sanitized all appropriate areas, she said.
As word spread about Russell's illness Tuesday night, then about his death Wednesday, students and staff expressed grief.
Coach Bill Harrelson said the abrupt nature of Russell's death was tough to absorb.
"He was an asset to us in every way," he said. "He was definitely a team person. He had a smile on his face and did whatever he was asked to do. In the classroom, on the field and in the locker room he was an asset."
Harrelson met with the team on two separate occasions last Wednesday, but the Lions did not practice.
"It was a very hard task to tell the team," Harrelson said. "It's just something - 16-, 17- and 18-year-old kids think they're invincible. It's a tough chore to tell them their teammate's passed away."
Russell was honored at Friday's homecoming game.
"They are a very close-knit team," Kelly said. "This game will be for Casey."
Sports editor Paul Gatling contributed to this report.
News, Pages 2 on 09/30/2009