Update: The funeral for Georgia high schooler Robbie Roper, a promising young football star who died earlier this month, was held Tuesday at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, with a surprising update from his dad. Per USA Today, via Fox News, James Roper told those gathered to pay tribute to his son that the 18-year-old hadn't died from complications following surgery, as had initially been reported. "He didn't kill himself," James Roper added. "I want to make sure that's clear. But even at the hospital, they couldn't figure out what was wrong with him." The report in USA Today, which says there was no autopsy, notes Robbie Roper got sick while visiting relatives in St. Augustine, Fla. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that at Tuesday's service, Chris Prewett, the teen's coach at Roswell High, said, "We're going to miss you, Robbie. They got a damn good quarterback up there." Our original story from Dec. 23 follows:
The way things were going, Robbie Roper was on track to becoming a familiar name for college football fans. But the star high school quarterback in Georgia died unexpectedly after routine surgery at age 18, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His family announced the news in a tweet on Wednesday. The surgical procedure wasn't specified, but Roper suffered complications afterward, his coach tells the newspaper. Only days ago, Sports Illustrated's AllGators site reported that the University of Florida was talking to Roper, who threw for more than 3,000 yards and 37 touchdowns this season in leading Roswell High School to a top-10 ranking in the state.
The story described Roper as an "underrated" passer "whose recruitment is just beginning to take off," and Roper himself addressed the frenzy. "It's definitely been crazy," he said. "I mean the first game of the season, I think I put up 450 [yards] passing and about 70 on the ground, so I knew what season it could end up being." Roper hadn't committed to any school, but in addition to powerhouse Florida, he'd received offers or interest from the likes of Ole Miss, Pittsburgh, UMass, Morehead State, Morgan State, and Western Carolina, per USA Today.
"Robbie did everything in life with a contagious, positive and energetic attitude that will be missed by all who knew him," Roswell coach Chris Prewett tells the Atlanta newspaper. "Robbie fought hard and battled until the very end like he did everything else." The teen's death has triggered an outpouring of support to Roper's family and school, and it even caught the attention of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons. "We are saddened by the passing of one of our local high school football family members," the team wrote on Twitter. "May he rest in peace." (Read more high school football stories.)