ROSWELL, Ga. - Hours after learning of their beloved classmate's death, students and parents of Roswell High School gathered to remember the senior. Student-athlete Robbie Roper died due to complications from surgery in Florida.
The 18-year-old was the Roswell Hornet's star quarterback and was considered a top recruiting prospect for colleges across the country. His death had a significant impact on the football community in addition to his metro Atlanta community. But underneath the stats, to those who knew him best, he was just an all-around good guy.
Coach Chris Prewett, who just completed his second season as head coach, was one of those at Wednesday night's vigil.
"Losing a student is always tough, especially as a coach, you have a really close relationship with all you players especially your quarterbacks," said Coach Prewett.
Roper passed away due to complications from shoulder surgery earlier this week in Florida. Coach Prewett said he talked to Roper the other night after having undergone a successful surgery and he appeared to be doing well, but complications arose that placed him on life-support, fighting for his life. It was a fight he ultimately could not win.
His fellow Hornets gathered at the very stadium Roper played for the past four years just hours after learning the tragic news. Socially distancing, students took to the stands and use their cellphone to shine a light for the senior,
"I mean, Robbie was one of those kids that he'd walk in a room and he’d brighten it the second he walked in there." Coach Prewett said.
The coach said he was also a competitor and a great young man.
"He didn’t meet a stranger, he was funny, he was energetic, he was everything you want to see as a student-athlete," Coach Prewett said.
That sentiment showed as condolences for Roper and his family crossed every social media platform on Wednesday. Roper was considered a rising star which is why his death was just so shocking to so many.
"He did everything the right way, did everything he was supposed to. Was on that precipice of graduating getting to play college football. So, it’s just sad to see it taken away so quickly," Prewett said.
The coach said his next focus must be to be there for the team and Roper's classmates as they also try to process this newfound grief.
"You come out here and talk about Robbie and talk about the good times and think about the good stories we have of Robbie." he said. "Just to remember positive things and try to remember the person he was."
Coach Prewett spent the evening, as many did, trying to find the right words to this heartbreaking loss. After speaking on camera to the media, he later took to Twitter to try to more formally put his feeling into words. It is a heartfelt statement that feels like a somber goodbye letter sent to his star quarterback:
"I've tried to put into words how this feels and how much of an impact this young man had on myself and our program. I've been fortunate enough to know Robbie for close to two years. I remember the random conversations walking thru the field house, I remember talking about coverage, blitzes, etc., I remember hearing your plans about the future and being so excited to see you achieve your dreams, I remember your jokes during practice.
"What people won't see is the endless amount of work you would do behind the scenes to get ready for games and practices, the hours watching film, the time you spent with younger quarterbacks, the times you read to elementary school students and spent time talking with youth football players. Our program is forever changed and I'll make sure that your story lives on through these stories.
"You were taken from this world way too soon. Walking by your locker will never be the same and I'm glad you're in a better place and in perfect health with the ultimate healer. I will make sure I hug my girls a little tighter and love on our players a little bit more."