New Jersey High School Football Player Dies After Traumatic Head Injury: 'Worst Fear Came True'

·3 min read
Xavier
Xavier

Derek Armstead/Instagram Xavier McClain

A high school student-athlete in New Jersey has died nearly two weeks after he suffered a traumatic brain injury during a football game.

On Wednesday, the mayor of Linden, New Jersey, Derek Armstead, shared posts on Facebook and Instagram announcing that Xavier McClain had died from injuries he suffered during a Sept. 9 football game against nearby Woodbridge High School. The town's mayor had first shared news of the student's injuries last Saturday on Facebook.

"Together we prayed for a miracle and hoped for a different outcome. I trust that God knows better. HE needed an angel and decided to call Xavier home to be with HIM," Armstead wrote in a post Wednesday. "With your prayers, Xavier fought a good fight. In the end, he succumbed to the injuries that he sustained a couple weeks ago while playing football during the LHS Tigers' game vs Woodbridge."

"This news hurts because I have known his parents, Lisa and Norm for years, Xavier and Andres, their two sons, since they were little boys," Armstead continued. "My wife and I spend time in their home and our children played together. Tragically, their worst fear came true."

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"Norm and Lisa are devastated. Children are supposed to outlive their parents, not the other way around," he added.

McClain, a sophomore at Linden High School, sustained an injury while returning a kickoff at the start of the game's second half on Sept. 9, according to NJ.com and TMZ, which cited witnesses at the game who could not speak about the incident publicly. Game video shows that play stopped and an ambulance took to the Linden High School sideline for about 10 minutes, according to NJ.com.

"The Linden Public School district is deeply saddened by the tragic death of a Linden High School sophomore student," the school district said in a statement obtained by TMZ Thursday. "The district extends its heartfelt condolences and will continue to offer prayers and support to the family during this difficult time."

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The Linden Public School District did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment Thursday.

Kickoffs and punt plays in football carry a reputation as some of the sport's most dangerous moments. A study conducted by Sports Info Solutions found that between 2017-2021, head injuries made up 18.5% of all injuries during kickoff and punts in the NFL, compared to 13.4% of all injuries during other play types.

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The NFL has changed rules regarding kickoffs multiple times in recent years in attempts to reduce injuries during these plays.

On Thursday, NJ.com described McClain as "a budding star" on both sides of the ball for the school's football team as he made his way through his sophomore year.

Linden High School has a game scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, according to NJ.com. It is unclear whether the school intends to play the game.