South Omaha community, schools honor football player who died after collapsing at practice
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Two weeks ago, 16-year-old Drake Geiger collapsed during the first few minutes of the first football practice of the year.
Geiger was rushed to the hospital, where he then died from a heatstroke, according to his family.
As the high school football season kicks off, several teams are doing what they can to honor the boy.
“Tons of family, friends, the outreach from the community and even people we don’t know has been tremendous and that just helps us get along each day,” says Scott Hoffman, Drake’s dad.
The Cougars at Gross Catholic High School will wear Drake’s name and number on their helmets this season, to honor Drake, his family, and support the South Omaha community.
“I was, you know, blown away at the amount of support we got from all of our parents and the decals look awesome, it’s a great way to show the South Omaha comradery and really honor Drake and his family and the whole football community,” says Tom Van Haute, a football coach at Gross.
When he heard the news, Van Haute says he and his team were shocked.
“I was taken aback, its a very scary situation and the first thing you think about is the family but then you also think about your own players, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t in the back of my mind especially with the heat here recently.”
The idea behind the decals started with several parents of football players at Gross - a combination of alumni from both Gross and Omaha South.
“It’s just a really small piece, they wont think about it every single time they put their helmets on but they’re going to think about him, and the other teams they’re going to play will see that and hopefully continue to think about him and keep his memory alive on football fields,” says Barb Brennan, who has several kids at Gross High.
“It’s not their friend or someone they went to school with but I think its impacted them in a way because they think about their own friends and themselves,” Brennan says.
The sticker ideas were brought to life thanks to a small South Omaha business, run by another Gross alumni. The online apparel business, Leni + Lou, donates a portion of every sale to charitable causes in South Omaha and beyond.
“I was able to easily make it happen, and then I went ahead and ordered an extra amount that I sell on the website, and I’ll be giving all the proceeds from those to the family,” says Leni + Lou owner Miranda Engelkamp.
Engelkamp is also currently selling Nebraska shirts on her site, and including a Drake sticker with every order. The proceeds from these sales will go to the National Center for Sports Safety.
Engelkamp and Brennan say South Omaha culture runs deep, and when someone is in need, there will always be a helping hand not far away.
Omaha Gross players and parents also raised funds for the Geiger family, and purchased enough helmet decals for the entire Omaha South football team to wear throughout the season, too.
“Oh it’s cool, I mean, it just helps heal the heart, the outpouring from them wearing the decals, South wearing the decals,” says Hoffman. “Then we’ve also been reached out to from several schools, Gretna sent us a signed football, we received flowers and stuff from a lot of the schools in the area. That’s pretty awesome, Drake would’ve been amazed.”
Hoffman says the entire Omaha South football team attended Drake’s visitation, and a number of them attended the funeral.
“They even stood on both sides of the casket as it got loaded up, so that was pretty awesome as well,” he says. Players and coaches on the team also wrote letters and notes to Drake’s family sharing memories and messages of support, and compiled it into books for his family to keep.
“It’s just amazing,” Hoffman says.
Hoffman says his family is hoping in the future to donate equipment to the school, and create a scholarship fund in Drake’s name. Anything to create a positive outcome from the tragedy they faced.
A petition has also been created by Drake’s family to get the attention of the Nebraska School Activities Association, in hopes of them changing their heat index guidelines.
6 News reached out to the NSAA, which says the matter is being looked into.
“The easy answer to that question is yes, they [rules] can be changed, but its going to be done through research, working with our sports medicine advisory committee (SMAC) which has doctors and people that are well versed in these things,” says NSAA executive director Jay Bellar. “It even goes up to the national level, so believe me we’ve already reached out to our SMAC committee to see if we’re doing the best possible thing we can for our kids,” he says.
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