News 12 at 11 o'clock / Saturday, May 5, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A high school football player just three weeks from graduation is dead after a car accident in Burke County.
The 18-year-old went to Burke County High School and was a member of the state championship football team.
"I think we're still in a state of shock," said head football coach Eric Parker. "It's like I think everybody's waiting to wake up from a really bad dream."
Denzell Warthen was driving home to Midville from First Friday in Augusta when he fell asleep at the wheel and flipped his car multiple times near the intersection of Highway 56 and Scott Store Road.
Just six months ago he and his friends celebrated the first-ever state football championship for Burke County High School.
"I'll never forget the day my brother won the state championship; the look the look on his face, he just busted in the door like, 'Grandma, Grandma, we won, we won,'" said his sister Jasmine Phillips.
Warthen played safety for the team and was looking to continue his football career in college.
"That was his goal: He was planning on going to college and playing football while he was in college," said his aunt Joquinta Collins.
Family and friends say Warthen was the jokester, prankster and team clown.
"You can't spend the amount of time that we spend with each other and not be devastated when something like this happens and I think Denzell being who he was and what he was for us makes it even tougher," Parker said.
It's a tough loss that will be felt throughout the community.
"Just the idea of him not being here -- I think it's gonna be tough for a lot of people, not just us as football players," Parker said.
His aunt says he lived every day like it was his last and she wants to remind everyone to do the same.
"Enjoy life while you have it because life is very short and live each day like it's our last day and I think that's how Denzell lived," she said.
His aunt says he was supposed to have a college interview on Saturday. She said she was expecting to celebrate her nephew's future, not grieve the end of his life.
He was not alone in the car. He was with a friend, a former graduate of Burke County High School.That friend is currently at GHSU medical center and is expected to be OK.