Watch CBS News

Emotions run high at funeral for Linden High School football player Xavier McClain

High school football player who suffered deadly head injury laid to rest
High school football player who suffered deadly head injury laid to rest 01:47

LINDEN, N.J. -- A funeral was held Thursday for Xavier McClain, the New Jersey high school football player who died earlier this month after suffering an on-field injury.

CBS2's Kevin Rincon was in Linden as family and friends said one last goodbye.

There was no shortage of emotions. The tears and hugs at the funeral home were a way for loved ones to remember the life of 16-year-old McClain.

"He made everybody laugh, even in hard times," sister Alysha Martinez said.

Martinez said her brother wanted nothing more than to play football. The sophomore at Linden High School, who had played since he was 5, died after suffering a serious head injury during a game on Sept. 9 against Woodbridge High School.

"And it hurt because the day before he passed we had gone to hospital to see him and he was okay. He was okay, and then all of a sudden he was gone," Martinez said.

As his casket was loaded into the hearse on Thursday, the reality of the moment set in.

"It's so unnatural when a child leaves before a parent, or when a child leaves any time. It's unnatural, hits the heart really hard," Linden Mayor Derek Armstead said.

READ MORELinden High School postpones football game after sophomore Xavier McClain's death

Armstead knew McClain since he was a small boy. He's close to the family, as is his wife, Danie Orelien-Armstead. She recalled the moment she heard the news.

"I called my children. I gave them hugs and I told them, 'Mommy loves you,'" Orelien-Armstead said. "We tend to take life for granted and not realize that we're not promised tomorrow."

READ MOREMoment of silence held to honor Linden High School football player Xavier McClain

The grief for many was intense, but those who knew McClain said he would want them to hold their heads high.

"I know he wouldn't want us sitting here crying. I know he'd want us celebrating the life that he had," Martinez said.

So, in that spirit, as the procession drove by his friends, classmates, teammates, they put their arms together to make an X for Xavier as they said goodbye.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.