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Healthy 17-Year-Old Football Player Dies in His Sleep: 'You Will Forever Be in Our Thoughts'

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A 17-year-old New Jersey football player died suddenly last week and is being mourned by his team, family and community.

Ali Muhammad was a senior backup center at Rahway High School, in Rahway, which is in central New Jersey, NJ.com reported.

He died in his sleep Thursday at his home. His father, Percy Lamont Brown, found the boy dead when he tried to wake him up for school.

No details have been announced about a funeral service or the cause of death, but his football team honored him on Friday.

Though he was a backup player, Muhammad was remembered and commemorated as a key to the team’s practice.

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“He made the team’s first-string defensive linemen better by putting his all into each snap and blocking assignment during practice drills. Ali never once complained about his lack of playing time in varsity games, though may have heard a little carping at times from the starting teammates who were forced to endure the stoic commitment he applied to the task,” NJ.com reported.

Assistant Coach Mike Kuchar noted that just the day before his death, Muhammad had a good practice.

“Wednesday was an offensive practice, so Ali did not get a ton of reps that day, but he was fine,” Kuchar said. “He usually gets more reps in defensive practice because he’s the scout center.”

Rahway High School thought about canceling the Friday night game in light of the news, but the team wanted to play and honor Muhammad’s memory.

“We obviously didn’t practice yesterday and we came back and we met for dinner last night,” Rahway head coach Brian Russo said, according to My Central Jersey News, the website of the Home News Tribune based in Somerville.

“We told them, obviously, if you feel uncomfortable playing the game we expect to cancel, but the kids really wanted to play,” Russo added.

The Rahway Indians defeated Jersey City’s Lincoln High school 45-16, according to NJ.com. The team wore T-shirts with Muhammad’s name written on them under their shoulder pads and stickers with his number, 52, on the backs of their helmets.

Russo said that he always appreciated Muhammad’s attitude and team focus.

“He played hard all the time. He was our opponent’s scout team center and just did whatever you asked him to do to make the team better. And he loved being a part of it,” Russo said, NJ.com reported.

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“When you hear something like this, it’s just devastating. I couldn’t imagine being in that father’s shoes right now,” Russo added. “It’s something you never think you’re going to experience.”

Muhammad’s death also comes a year after his own mother’s death in July of 2021.

Meanwhile, Rahway Football’s Twitter account posted about the loss of Muhammad and paid tribute to his memory.

“It is with great sadness, and a heavy heart, that we are sharing the unfortunate passing of Rahway Senior football player, Ali Muhamad. Our hearts go out to the family during this tough time. You will forever be in our thoughts,” the tweet stated.

Kuchar also tweeted about Muhammad’s passing.

“Lost a brother today. We will be playing for him, his family and everything he represented tomorrow night. ⁦@rahwayfootball,” Kuchar tweeted Thursday.

Along with that tweet, Kuchar added a screenshot of Brown’s original Facebook post announcing the death of his son.

“I am in grieving, my son is passed away, Ali Muhammad, gone way too soon,” Brown had written in a Facebook post, along with pictures of his son.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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