A former 7-year-old coach who was found dead along with his two siblings on a Brooklyn beach on Monday remembered him as a quiet, expressive boy who was passionate about playing football.
Allen McFarland, a youth football coach and employee of the New York City Department of Education, said the boy joined his team two years ago and wore the number 15.
“He was a very quiet kid, but he was very expressive,” McFarland said, adding that the boy had a huge smile while playing. “He was excited to tackle, tackle, excited to run the ball, excited to hit the person with the ball, he was excited.”
According to the coach, his mother would drop him off at practice and then drop him off to run errands.
The coach had to break the news to the rest of the team on Monday and was met with tears from the children, who were heartbroken to hear their teammate was gone.
“They understand life and death and they took it very hard,” McFarland said. The team won a championship together in June 2021.
The coach said he was shaken by the news and made sure to spend even more time with his 6-year-old daughter. He picked her up from school after work and made sure she was by his side all day.
“I made sure to hug her a little more. I made sure he felt the love,” McFarland said. “It changes your perspective.”
McFarland said he remembered the boy’s mother pulling him out of football in March.
“You could see there was a lot going on,” the coach said of the mother.
“He would say, ‘No, I know he likes it and we’ll try to get him back, but the schedule has been busy,'” McFarland said. “It looked like they were juggling a lot.”
The coach tried to bring the boy back in June, but the boy’s mother said she was going to spend a few months with his father, McFarland said.
“He would say he wanted her back because he liked her, but the action never happened,” McFarland said. “He never came back.”
The coach said taking the boy out of football “has taken away the support.” Sometimes a coach who lived in the same building as the mother and her children would pick up the boy and take him to practice a few blocks away, McFarland said. The team trained three hours a day, four days a week, he added.
McFarland said the coaches tried to bring him back.
“He stopped coming. We keep an open door policy most of the time, but he just stopped coming,” McFarland said. “And we texted him and then I think they changed the number or something because I wasn’t getting a response.”
McFarland was at work Monday morning when he got a call from another coach on his team to tell him the news.
“‘They found it. They drowned on the beach,’” McFarland says the other coach told him.
McFarland said she was in the cafeteria while breakfast was being served and remembers hearing all the noise in the room go silent.
“He was crying by the time he was talking to me,” McFarland said. “Then I had to pull myself together. It was very strange.”
McFarland said she scoured social media for mentions of the boy’s death. When he found no pictures or memorabilia, he hoped it had been a misunderstanding. But the hours went by and more parents called him and then contacted reporters.
And when they said the boy’s name, hope disappeared.