STATEN ISLAND, New York (CNN) – Fall means the beginning of high school football across the country. But for the Curtis High football team in Staten Island, New York, a time for excitement and celebration has turned to sorrow.
Miles Kirkland-Thomas had big plans: to leave behind a life in the projects, and earn a football scholarship to go to college. But on Monday, the Curtis high school junior collapsed during practice.
Florence McNatt, Kirkland-Thomas’ grandmother said, “Nobody slept last night ’cause something missing in our family.”
At his home in the West Brighton houses, McNatt is still stunned that he died, at just 16 years old. She told reporters, “His mama been up all night crying. I appreciate y’all news media coming by, but right now his mama is really, she’s been up all night, she’s been crying.”
Blake McNatt, Miles’ 8-year-old cousin said, “I’m very very upset, and I know that he’s in heaven now.”
Kirkland-Thomas was a leader at home, and on the team.
Amad Anderson, one of Kirkland-Thomas’ Curtis High School teammates, said “He always made sure you was okay; he was real cool. The whole team, the whole football team loved him.”
Teammate Amad Anderson says yesterday they ran up the field a dozen times, then took a water break. The players were doing individual work outs when Kirkland-Thomas passed out. He was in cardiac arrest when an ambulance rushed him to the hospital.
Anderson said, “We don’t know what happened, but he just fell. I think he was overheated, probably, but he just fell.”
Kirkland-Thomas was a defensive lineman, 6 foot 2, 320 pounds.
An autopsy will determine the cause of death, and if heat was a factor. It was one of the hottest, most humid days of the year. And the saddest for a team still coping with the sudden loss.
The team’s first game of the season is scheduled for Saturday, at home. It’s unclear if it will moved, or canceled.
New York City public high school rules state that practices must be stopped if the temperature hits 85 degrees with 80 percent humidity. When Kirkland-Thomas collapsed Monday, the temperature was 78 degrees and the humidity about 75.