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For week ended November 21, 1999 Posted 24 Feb 2001

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LDS high school student's sudden death shocks ward, community (Football Player's Death at Practice Stuns Community)

Summarized by Kent Larsen

LDS high school student's sudden death shocks ward, community (Football Player's Death at Practice Stuns Community)
Los Angeles Times 17Nov99 P2
By Karen Alexander, Chris Ceballos: Special to The Times

HUNTINGTON BEACH, CALIFORNIA -- 16-year-old LDS Church member Steven "Scotty" Lang collapsed and died on Monday after running wind sprints to warm-up before football practice at his high school, shocking his high school, community and his LDS ward. Lang had completed six 20-yard wind sprints when he went down on one knee and then collapsed, stunning his coaches and teammates who watched helplessly as he died. In spite of CPR efforts made by coaches, trainers and paramedics, Lang was pronounced dead on arrival at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center at 3:45 p.m. Monday. The cause of his death is under investigation.

Lang's mother arrived while he was still on the football field, "One of the girls from church called me at home and told me he had fainted on the field," his mother, Cindy Lang, told the Los Angeles Times in an emotional interview at her Huntington Beach home. "Scotty's coach called me while I was driving over there and [the coach] was crying, and he said he's still on the field." She arrived before the ambulance, and was invited to ride to the hospital with her son.

"They asked me if I wanted to ride with him and I said I wanted to be with my boy, and I prayed," she said. "I have faith that he's in heaven with his Father now, and we are the ones that are going to have to get through this. We know that we are going to see him again." Lang's father, Steve, was away at the family's new vacation home on the Colorado River when he was told of his son's death.

Like all football players, Lang had received a thorough physical before practice started in July, and he had no known health problems. "He was the epitome of health," Ernst said Tuesday. "There were no restrictions on his file. . . . I don't know what else we could have done to help Scotty yesterday, or to prepare for what we have to do today."

Scotty had been suffering from a cold, but was feeling better, according to his mother. He had taken the antibiotic amoxicillin that morning, but doctors say that it is unlikely that the antibiotic could have caused his death, "Frankly, it's pretty innocuous," said USC assistant professor of clinical pharmacy Robert Holbrook, who is also the school's athletic department pharmacist. "It is prescribed commonly to USC athletes, and I know our doctor is completely comfortable with it."

Lang's close friend and teammate, Buck Borquist, who is also a member of the LDS Church , said that Lang was very healthy, "I never remember him having any health problems. I know for a fact he's never had any sort of drug, alcohol or cigarette in his mouth."

Teachers and administrators at the high school were warned and prepared for school Tuesday to help Lang's friends and classmates through the tragedy, "The kids are taking it as you would imagine, unbelievably hard," said school psychologist Lee Huff. Principal Ernst added that the football team was hit especially hard, "I've got about 80 football players who are in a world of hurt right now."

One parent distributed blue ribbons -- the school's color -- inscribed with number 75, Lang's jersey number. Student Shawna Bowie, 17, said the school was markedly different Tuesday because of the tragedy, "He was one of the most popular kids in school. School is so depressing right now. The classes are really just silent. Teachers are hardly teaching, and even the people who didn't know him are upset."

Lang was remembered by coaches and friends as a friendly, energetic young man. "Scotty was a 6-foot-6, 250-pound puppy dog," said his Fountain Valley High School Principal, Greg Ernst. "He had lots of enthusiasm, lots of energy, and lots of friends."

Another LDS Church member, Pam Orgill, whose husband became Bishop after Steve Lang was released, was also complimentary of Lang, "I think the best compliment I could give Scotty is that he is very much like his father. He is just a very warm, kindhearted boy. We used to tease that he would be a great football player if he could just get mean, but he wasn't mean at heart. He was always smiling. . . . For his size, he could have been a bully but he wasn't."

Lang's friend Borgquist remembered his helpful nature, "We were in sixth grade, and I sprained my ankle hopping a wall to visit Scotty's neighbor. He's been big since forever, and he picked me up and took me in the house. He iced my ankle and made sure I was OK."

"He was a Mormon boy and he loved life," said Lang's uncle, Larry Moore, who acted as a spokesman for the family. "He was an athletic boy and a good kid. He was better to his parents than I was to mine." According to his Bishop, Tim Miller, Lang planned to serve a mission and to play football in college. He hoped to attend BYU.

Lang was also a member of the high school's Concert Choir and elite choir, the Troubadours. "He had an outstanding ear and learned very difficult music parts very quickly," said Choral Director Ted Reid. "It's a real blow because he had a very charming way about him."

His football coach, Eric Johnson said that he had a future in football because of his size. Johnson asked his team Tuesday if they wanted to proceed with a scheduled game on Friday, the day before Lang's funeral. The team is scheduled to play top-seeded Long Beach Poly in the first round of playoffs. "The main question we asked is what would Scotty want us to do? (The team) felt he would have wanted them to play. The team's changed. Everything we do now is for Scotty."

The team met with LDS Church members on Tuesday for an informal memorial at Lang's LDS Chapel. Bishop Miller, who witnessed the memorial said that the team was still trying to accept their teammate's death. "There was a lot of grief, a lot of sadness, but not desperation. We talked about Scotty. The plan of salvation. We hoped they found comfort and direction."

And Lang's death even gave their opponent something to think about. "I've got three boys of my own, and it makes you take stock," said Long Beach Poly's coach, Jerry Jaso. "Football is an easy game to get wrapped up in, to the exclusion of everything else. When something like this happens, you ask, 'What's really important here?' "

See also:

Will the Barons Play? Yes, for Scotty
Los Angeles Times 17Nov99 P2
By Tim Brown: Times Staff Writer
Fountain Valley High team will take the field Friday night, battling grief but knowing the lineman would want them to.

A School Asks Why
Orange co CA Register 17Nov99 P2
By Olivia Hawkinson: The Orange County Register
TRAGEDY: 'This is not supposed to happen,' principal says of football player's death.

Also appears in:
California high school hit hard by death of popular junior player
Seattle WA Times (Orange County Register) 17Nov99 P2

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information