Not even the toughest men on campus could contain their tears Saturday as they mourned their former teammate Shaun Wild.
Several hundred people, mostly past and present North Central College Cardinals football players, friends and family, packed into the campus's Harold and Eva White Activities Center to remember Wild.
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They talked of his love and enthusiasm for teaching second-graders at nearby Spring Brook Elementary School, the awkwardness with which he ran a slant route before he became a kicker and his expletive-laced pregame pep talks. And they got emotional.
"All of us football players sat here and we cried a lot," said wide receiver Kevin Adams. "That's all right. We're going to."
Wild's roommate of four years and best friend Steve Hlavac shared the story of how he first met and learned he was roommates with the lanky redhead with mutton chops.
"This was never going to work, but we instantly became best friends and someone I couldn't imagine ever having to live without," Hlavac said. "How proud should we all be right now? Look at this. It's been a matter of hours (since his death) and this is his second home and all of us are here. It says an unbelievable thing about him and the type of person he was and the people he influenced."
Head football coach John Thorne encouraged each of his players to take a piece of Wild with them from here forward.
"Shaun had this sparkle and this fire in his eyes. I just loved when he'd come down to office, and I could talk to him. He had this kindness in his heart, and he always could make people smile and laugh."
Maureen Kincaid, chairwoman of the education department, didn't try to hold back tears either as she described one of the department's "shining stars."
"Please pray for his little second-graders and their families," she said. "We are sorry there are so many hundreds of kids who will not have the opportunity to be impacted by him."
Wild's parents and a small group of family sat silently in the front row, meeting several of their son's friends and teammates for the first time. But they did not speak publicly. They instead were comforted individually by the stream of supporters who lined up to embrace them following the ceremony.