TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Hezekiah Walters was born on March 1, 2005.
His mother and father had high hopes for their baby boy. They named him after King Hezekiah in the Bible.
“I knew his steps would be ordered by the Lord,” his mom, Phyllis Thompson-Walters, said.
And, like most little boys, he could sometimes be a bit rambunctious.
“He was always inquisitive. He would take stuff apart and put it back together,” Thompson-Walters said.
Heze, as he became known, always studied hard and worked to make mom and dad happy. He played in band. Then, in middle school, he got his first real taste of football.
“Coach said Hezekiah made a touchdown and went berserk. He said he disrupted everybody because he was so happy he made that touchdown,” Hezekiah’s mom recalled.
And, from that moment on, his life took a different path.
“When he made that touchdown, everything in him crossed that line,” his mom said.
He was determined to play football at Middleton High in Tampa.
Heze, a rising freshman, went to practice on June 11. He was so excited that he forgot his cleats.
“He said, ‘Thank you, Mommy.’ And he hugged me like you wouldn’t believe. And he grabbed his cleats. And he was like cheering his own self,” Thompson-Walters said.
He went to practice and his mom went to work.
Then she got the disturbing call that Heze had collapsed in practice while running drills for about 20 minutes. He began to vomit and had a seizure.
“I just couldn’t believe what they were trying to tell me. I was right around the corner – ain’t nothing wrong with Heze. I just gave Heze his shoes,” she recalled.
She and Heze’s dad rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital.
“When I walked into his room…it wasn’t pretty,” she said. “It wasn’t good.”
In fact, it was far worse than they could ever imagine.
“I couldn’t help it. I just started crying and told God to help us. Help us, Jesus, right now. If there’s a God, if there be God…help us right now. They was pumping and pumping and pumping on him,” she recalled through tears.
Her little boy was slipping away.
“I said Lord have mercy. And I told the Lord, thank you for giving me the days that you had given me with Hezekiah. I give Hezekiah back to you. Right now in the name of Jesus. In the name of Jesus, I return him back to you,” Thompson-Walters said.
An autopsy revealed the teen died from exertional hyperthermia, meaning he had a body temperature above 104 degrees.
“I was rubbing Hezekiah’s hair and I was holding on,” his mom said. “I said, Lord, thank you for my son.”
His funeral was filled with district leaders, family and friends. People who loved him along with some who likely didn’t know him.
His father delivered the eulogy.
Now all the family has are fond memories and photos.
One of his mom’s favorites is Heze as a toddler in a cap and gown. It’s something they won’t see again. He will never graduate from high school or college.
Asked if she ever regrets letting him play football, Thompson-Walter said, “I’m a mother. And it’s not that I let him play. Everything in him wanted to play.”
Her hope now is that others will live out their dreams, knowing her son died living out his.