If there’s one thing Abraham Tapia knew about his cousin Carlos Sanchez, it was that the 16-year-old from Glendale loved the game of football.
“I mean football, he gave it 100 percent, more than 100%,” Tapia said. “He was just so dedicated to the game."
Tapia spoke on behalf of Sanchez's heartbroken parents, who are mourning their son's death.
“They're devastated," Tapia said. "You know, they're in shock but they're being so strong."
Sanchez, a vibrant and popular football player at Moon Valley High School in north Phoenix, died Sunday after taking a hit during a Friday night football game and collapsing on the field.
“He was just a gift from God, sent by God,” Tapia said.
Family members say before Sanchez was a star on the football field, he was the shining light in his parents' lives.
Tapia says after struggling to have children, Sanchez was his parents' miracle baby.
“When he was born and God finally gave them a child, I mean they just loved and cared for him so much,” said Tapia.
A brother and sister followed but Sanchez always shared a special bond with them. Now through the tragedy of his death, his parents are learning just how many people Sanchez touched by the overwhelming support they’ve received from the community.
“How much love they had for him, everyone, all his teammates teachers, everyone in general,” Tapia said.
Firefighters who responded to the field after Sanchez collapsed said the 16-year-old suffered a seizure.
What led to the seizure is still under investigation.
“The information we were given is that a typical football play occurred and that tragedy happened in the course of the game,” said Joe Paddock, the assistant executive director of the Arizona Interscholastic Association, which oversees high school sports programs.
The AIA is not part of the official investigation into whether it was the hit Sanchez took or another medical issue that led to Sanchez death.
The family declined to speak about the incident and is instead focusing their attention on Sanchez’s legacy.
Tapia says a few months ago Sanchez and his parents talked about what they'd want if anything were to happen to one of them.
They had no idea just how important that conversation would soon be.
“He told my uncle that he wanted to donate his organs -- he wanted to save other people,” Tapia said.
Sanchez’s parents followed through on their son’s wish.
Tapia says knowing their son will live on in others gives the family a small sense of peace.
“That his life, this tragedy, isn't just in vain,” Tapia said, “That God is using his death for good.”
If you would like to help the Sanchez family with funeral expenses, a GoFundMe account has been set up in their honor.
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