A message from a fortune cookie is taped to the mirror in Burke Cobb’s bedroom.
It says, “Your example will inspire others.”
Messages like that and stories told by family and friends now provide comfort and inspiration. The 14-year-old Cobb died last Thursday following a conditioning workout with the Dutchtown High football team.
Autopsy results are not yet available. Cobb’s uncle, Ronnie Simpson, said the family was told a congenital heart defect was the likely cause of death.
Tragic deaths like Cobb’s happen without warning. His family and the community are on a mission to honor his memory by forming Living4Burke, a non-profit foundation that will raise funds to offer cardiovascular screening for athletes.
“This is something no family, coach and or school wants to go through,” Dutchtown head football coach Benny Saia said.
“Here’s a kid who was with us for about five weeks. He was well liked. Our coaches identified him as a top athlete in the freshman group. You ask why and there are no answers.”
The ninth-grader-to-be had completed his workout. After making a phone call to get a ride home, Cobb joined a pick-up basketball game in the gym and then collapsed.
Cobb already cast a pretty long shadow. He stood 6-foot-3 and weighed 200 pounds and was an offensive lineman at Prairieville Middle School. Last spring, he played for Dutchtown’s lacrosse club team and was the only eighth-grader to score.
Days before he died, Cobb attended the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux as a tight end. Large Fathead stickers of Peyton Manning and Drew Brees adorn the walls of his room. Dutchtown jerseys with Cobb’s No. 55 also hang around the family’s Prairieville home.
“Burke loved all things sports 24-7,” his father, Jim Cobb, said. “He’s a lot like I was growing up. He was a big, goofy kid who was growing into his body. If he wasn’t playing sports, he’d stay up and watch ESPN.”
The Cobbs say their son’s love of sports was matched only by his love of family. He went deer hunting with his father. He shot baskets, swam and played football with his younger brothers, Schaffer and Dallas, and his cousins. An honor student, Cobb wanted to become a physical therapist. His mother, Marla, counts stories about her young son’s good deeds as blessings.
“Burke always smiled and never got in trouble,” Prairieville coach Brad Stutzman said. “He gave other kids the clothes off his back so they could dress out for P.E.”
Skeptics might question what impact a 14-year-old can have. Between 2,500 and 3,000 attended visitation at Istrouma Baptist Church. A jambalaya fundraiser held last weekend raised over $10,000.
Dutchtown will retire No. 55 for its freshmen and wear a BC decal on its helmets. A scholarship fund is planned.
And a Living4Burke website is also in the works. The Cobbs hope others groups, like the NFL, get involved.
“The best way to honor Burke is by making sure no other family goes through this,” his aunt, Kristen Cobb Simpson, said.