The Atlantic High School community rode a roller coaster of emotions the last 10 days, waiting to see if their star defensive back, Marc'Allen Derac, would survive injuries he suffered in a dirtbike accident.
Head Coach TJ Jackson said thought he was going to pull through - but Tuesday he lost that battle, passing away at just 17 years old.
"He was well respected in the community, well respected on the team," says Jackson.
Jackson says Derac was a beloved player on his team and a high character student - he had a 3.0 in school as he was preparing to go into his senior season.
But on Sunday April 22nd, the bright promising young man made a fatal mistake. Derac went riding on his dirtbike at night, without a helmet, license or headlights. Sheriff's reports show he hit an SUV, and the injuries he suffered killed him 9 days later. Jackson says the dirtbike was brand new, and had been a gift.
"I'm praying on kids all around america, that they take this tragedy and learn from it, and understand the importance of your life and your future."
And he says the Atlantic community's strong bond, will help them get through this together.
"We're going to lean on each other, Atlantic is a special place."
The rising senior was being widely recruited, with Division One offers from Syracuse, Iowa State and Western Michigan. Jackson told me that major schools in Florida had shown interest in him as well. In fact, among others, Miami head coach Mark Richt called him Tuesday to offer condolences.
Jackson says he's working with his uniform specialist to possibly develop a patch and undershirt for his players to wear honoring Marc. A vigil is in the works, and Jackson says the team will for certainly honor Derac during the spring game at Atlantic High on May 16th.
The Derac family released a statement Wednesday saying:
"We are heartbroken to share the news that Marc'Allen passed away early Tuesday morning as a result of injuries stemming from a dirt bike accident. The family extends their deepest gratitude to the local community for its outpouring of love, support and compassion.
Aside from being an extraordinary athlete at Atlantic Community High School, Marc'Allen was a loving son, devoted brother and dedicated student. In the short 17 years that he was with us, Marc'Allen touched so many lives and was truly loved by those who knew him.
As they prepare to face the incredibly difficult days ahead, the Derac family respectfully asks for privacy to grieve and heal."