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Jets players, coach fondly remember Cassius Walker

Cassius Walker loved playing football. And he enjoyed being a leader.

He was a star player with the Jets -- a youth football team under the direction of volunteer coaches through the Thomson-McDuffie Recreation and Leisure Services.

Walker was the biggest player on the Jets' team. He was considered somewhat of a player/coach.

Cassius, 8, died at the Medical College of Georgia Hospital in Augusta Oct. 27 from injuries received when he was struck by a pickup truck while preparing to board a school bus in front of his residence on Oct. 19. The accident occurred shortly after 7 a.m. on the 1300 block of Mesena Road.

McDuffie County Coroner Rhusha Mack said he was notified by hospital officials that Cassius passed away about noon. The coroner said an autopsy would not be performed.

Funeral services for Cassius were held Sunday at Springfield Baptist Church with the Rev. Frederick Favors officiating. Burial was held in Burke County near Waynesboro.

Teammates, coaches and parents are now coping with the loss of Cassius.

"He was one of our team leaders," said Jets' head coach Dontavious Murray, a senior at Thomson High School. "Cassius always encouraged others on the team not to give up and to do their best."

Earlier this year Cassius faced tragedy in one of the worst ways possible.

It involved the unexpected death of his father, Roderick Walker. Cassius walked into his home a little more than three months ago and discovered his father dead. Mr. Walker's death was attributed to a heart attack, according to family and church friend Marion Crawford.

"This family has been through a whole lot," said Mr. Crawford, an employee with the city of Thomson. "So many prayers have gone out to this family and they really appreciate it." Coach Murray said Cassius nearly died when he was a baby and that was the reason his parents, Roderick and Phyllis Walker decided to give him the name Cassius. It comes from the birth name of Muhammad Ali, the world-famous boxer.

"He was a fighter right from birth," said coach Murray. "And that's the way Cassius was on the football field. When his teammates weren't doing what they were supposed to, he'd say, 'Come on man, get it together."'

Cassius was an offensive and defensive lineman for the Jets.

Four of Cassius' teammates are Jamari Mills, 8, Damon Arnette, 8, Skyler Lewis, 8 and Jadis Gant, 7.

"He was our best player," said Damon.

Skyler said it made him "sad" that Cassius is no longer playing on the team.

"It's disappointing," said Jadis.

Jamari added, "It makes me mad."

Justin Grissom, who plays center, said, "He used to get down and dirty. He liked to play football. I miss him."

Teresa O'Neill, of Dearing, whose son, Connor, plays on the team, purchased football stickers and passed them out to players and parents at a games last Saturday. The stickers No. 90 written on them. Parents also wore black ribbons at that game to remember Cassius's contributions to the team.

"It's hard," said Ms. O'Neill. He was a big part of the team. He was our biggest player."

The accident still is being investigated by the Georgia State Patrol's Specialized Reconstruction Collision Team. No charges have been brought against the driver of the pickup truck, Waymon Brown, 50, of the 200 block of Dunn Street, Thomson.

Web posted on Thursday, November 04, 2010

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