Barnwell High School football player dies

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News 12 at 11 o'clock August 31, 2008

BARNWELL, SC--Justin Ferguson and James Wooden always played side by side and now that he's gone; this is one warhorse that will never be forgotten.

"He gave everything he had and that's what he did that last day of practice," said Justin Ferguson, James' teammate.

Justin Ferguson was at James Wooden's side when he collapsed after practice Tuesday and he can't believe his friend won't be back by his side ever again.

"I saw his eyes rolling around so I knew he was dehydrated real bad but I never knew it would be like this," said Justin.

Justin rode to the hospital with James and prayed everything would be just fine, but it wasn't. James' football coach tells News 12 the high school junior died Sunday morning from complications from a heat stroke.

Before he fought for his life in the hospital. James was a fighter right here on the football field as one of the toughest yet gentle Barnwell Warhorses."

"When the pads weren't on, you couldn't get him to hurt a single person, not even a fly. But when he put those pads on, you better know he was ready to hit," said Justin.

The "big teddy bear" as many would call him, touched countless lives in the Barnwell community. His number 79 painted in the end zone and posters still hung around the stadium from Friday's game. Reminders of support from a community that hoped James would be hitting the field once again.

And for James, a promise from his friend.

"He'll be there, he won't be there but his spirit will. The whole year is dedicated to him now," said Justin.

A team that plays for one horse, one town, and now one friend who will never be forgotten.

Coach Joey Still tells News 12 that James had suffered from other heat related complications this season. A few weeks ago he was hospitalized but was recently cleared to hit the field again.

He was able to play in the team's season opener against H-K-T.It's unclear at this time if the teenager had other medical problems that contributed to the heat stroke. No cause of death has been released

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