Lakeridge HS football program coping with third suicide in less than 3 years
LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. (KPTV) - As part of the Well-Being Revolution campaign, which highlights the impact mental health issues have on everyone, FOX 12 is sharing resources and stories about how our community is dealing with those problems. In this story, FOX 12 focuses on the Lakeridge High School program, that is coping with a third suicide in less than three years.
Strength and conditioning coach James Andrew took his own life in May. The Lakeridge High School and Linfield University grad was 27.
“He was one of the happiest, friendliest, positive, the stereotypical, ‘wait, that guy?’” said Spencer Phillips, head coach of Lakeridge High School football.
Phillips has seen the highest one can in the game of football as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl 52 Championship coaching staff, but the past 28 months have bid the biggest of blows.
“That has been one of the hardest things, you’re starting to get over the mountain top and then, ‘oh, my gosh! What happened?’” Phillips said.
The Pacer program and the kids in it have suffered far too much heartache, losing student-athlete Ezekial Crowder in 2021, longtime Lakeridge youth coach Jeff Weiler in 2022, and now James Andrew, who impacted hundreds of kids through his work at the school and with EForce Performance.
“You are worried about what they are going to feel because you don’t even know what you are going to feel. You’re upset, you know, ‘why?’ You just don’t know, and you will never know, and I really hate saying this but going through this a third time, I am angrier than I have ever been,” Phillips said.
Anger, sadness, and the connection of shared grief.
“I was lifting with him in my garage on Saturday and he was talking to me how excited he was for his bachelor party over in Sunriver and how he couldn’t wait to get married and how excited he was, and to change that and kill yourself three days later? Yeah...it’s hard to process because there was no sign that he was going through something,” Lakeridge sophomore Joe Weiler said of Andrew.
There often never is seemingly, the strongest from the outside are hurting the most on the inside.
“The older I got the more I realized how much of a big brother he was to me,” Weiler said. “My dad passed away last April, and he was there for me through all of it the past year, gave me support, gave me guidance when I needed it.”
Weiler is just 15 with enough pain to last a lifetime.
“He was in my house. He saw the impact that suicide had,” he said.
Joe is one of the sophomore Weiler triplets, along with his brother and sister, the hole in their world dug the deepest when their father, Jeff Weiler, took his life last spring.
“I am tired of losing good people, within the football program especially. We’ve lost two coaches and a player within the span of three years...all from suicide,” he said.
Andrew’s dad, Mike Andrew, is reeling from the recent loss of his son. He’s been the offensive line coach of the Pacers for years.
“When we were picking jerseys my freshman year, Mike had me pick No. 70. It’s the number that Mike and James wore, so he had me continue that and on to now, it’s something I am very honored to do,” said Lakeridge senior Chris Azari.
Incoming Lakeridge senior Azari is missing his buddy Zeke, Coach Weiler and now Coach Andrew, all different and all so dreadful.
“It’s something that, I am at the point now where we have to move on from it, no matter what. Even though we can still carry that pain and mourn and grieve and honor his memory, but we are going to have to still play football this season even though we will be a man short,” Azari said.
Coach Phillips has instilled “Appreciation Tuesday”, and really, it’s every day for the new Pacer way.
“It’s really ok to tell another man that, I appreciate you and I love ya. I just wish I would have even told James, ‘Appreciate ya, man. You know? Appreciate everything you do,’” said Phillips. “Yeah, we all did, we loved him! Gosh. Going forward, I know part of our program will always be now. Just tell people that you love them. It feels good. It feels good to let people know you care about them. You never know what you it’s going to do for someone. Might change their day.”
It might change their life and all that are part of it.
“We’ve already had two stickers on our helmet, and we’ll add one more, so we’ll wear that with pride and play our games with intent. Never waste a moment of time,” Azari said.
The Pacers once again enter the offseason with the heaviest of hearts and they’ll enter the fall season again playing for so many of their great friends, coaches and mentors they have lost.
FOX 12 is partnering with Providence Health Plan to share resources and information on behavioral health, so that everyone has a place to turn for help. To view more about the Well-Being Revolution, click here.
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