‘He always wanted to make other people better’: Tributes pour in for Dutch Fork football player who died after practice

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 9:04 PM EDT
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IRMO, S.C. (WIS) - The Irmo community in Richland County is working on several ways to honor the life of Jack Alkhatib, a senior football player at Dutch Fork High School who has died after passing out at practice on Tuesday night.

A memorial has been set up in his honor at the football field, and Lexington Richland School District 5 Interim Superintendent Dr. Akil Ross met with the team today to make plans for a more formal remembrance in the coming days.

Teammates say Alkhatib was someone who “always wanted to make other people better.”

One local mother is encouraging the Dutch Fork community to keep the faith and come together following his death.

“I have a 15-year-old son and I can’t even imagine something like this happening to him,” Pamela Godwin said. “Again, it’s devastating. I just express my condolences to the family.”

RELATED STORY | Dutch Fork football game canceled following death of player who collapsed at practice

WIS spoke with one teammate who said Alkhatib was a great person, a great teammate, and always had a smile on his face.

He said all the football players gathered on Wednesday morning to share memories of him and put tributes on his locker. He added that players were given the option to then be dismissed from school for the day, an option he elected to take.

The news is visceral for many in the LR5 community.

“I mean it’s a lot of emotions because this year we actually lost an old teacher to COVID so it hits home,” Mary Brown, who works in Irmo, said.

Michelle Ross, who runs the recruiting website Vizor Sports, said Alkhatib served as a mentor to her son.

She said would he spent extra time in the weight room working with him and encouraging him. He was the most positive person, Ross said.

Dutch Fork’s game against Gaffney on Friday was postponed late Friday. John Kareem, who works nearby the high school, said it’s the right move to let Alkhatib’s teammates begin the healing process.

“I think this coming Friday we should respect that, just honor and express our sympathy in various ways, just avoid any kind of social activity this coming Friday just to honor that young man,” he said.

In a statement, LR5 noted that additional counselors and support staff will be available to meet student’s needs in the coming days.

The Richland County Coroner’s Office, SLED, and the Richland County Sheriff’s Department are investigating Alkhatib’s death. SLED says by state law they are mandated to look into the death of a minor, no matter the cause.

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