La Porte football remembers Jake West - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

La Porte football remembers Jake West

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Jake West died from sudden cardiac arrest during football practice on Sept. 25, 2013 Jake West died from sudden cardiac arrest during football practice on Sept. 25, 2013
LA PORTE - On September 25, 2013, La Porte high school junior Jake West died at the age of 17. He was born with a heart condition. So rare -- only 1 in 10,000  people have it. It's virtually undetectable without an exam.

"It started off just like any other practice..." said senior Noah Boardman.

"The jokester that he is, everybody thought he was just joking around," said senior Tyler Littlejohn.

The truth was far more painful.

"Everybody was just in shock," said Littlejohn.

Seniors Noah Boardman and Tyler Littlejohn were best friends with Jake since 6th grade. 

They shared classes and say they were joined at the hip right up until the day he died.

"It was an emotional day," said Boardman.

"We definitely  miss his smile and his big head," said Littlejohn. "He's just been a part of us, and our lives for so long, and it's just that best friend that everybody misses."

As a starting linebacker this season, no doubt West would have made game-changing tackles remembered long after the end of the season.

"It's not five years ago," said Bob Schellinger, head football coach. "It was a year ago, and these seniors were his buddies. And, uh, his buddies were these seniors, he would have been a senior with us this year."

Instead, his life will be remembered much longer than that. A black flag with West's jersey number - 26 - waves in the endzone. The 26 yardline hashmark is painted orange - permanently - thanks to the new turf. West's jersey is buried under the field.

"It really brought out that family feeling that a team should have," Boardman.

But not all of West's legacy is visible under the Friday night lights...

"Jake through his passing has done so much good for our community," said Schellinger.

From now on, and including this past summer, all football players must undergo a heart exam. If doctors find anything serious, they are pulled from the team. They haven't flagged anyone this year. But they did find players with a family history of heart problems. Those players were further evaluated to make sure it wasn't anything serious.

The extra heart exams are paid for by the Play for Jake Foundation. The foundation pays for heart screenings and donates defibrillators to athletic organizations.

"We learned to celebrate that, because he's in a better place now," said Boardman.

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