The friends and family of a standout football recruit who had been headed to play for Georgia Tech are grieving after the 17-year-old was hit and killed in what seemed a freak accident, an incident officials now say was a suicide.
Bryce Gowdy was just days away from stepping onto the university’s campus as an incoming freshman wide receiver and full scholarship recipient when he was struck by a freight train in Deerfield Beach, Florida, around 4 a.m Monday, according to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.
He was rushed to a local area hospital, where he died from his injuries.
“He said he was gonna be famous,” his uncle, Thomas Gowdy, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “He wanted to be famous. This is just tragic [that] this has happened.”
On Tuesday, the Broward County Medical Examiner’s office ruled Gowdy’s manner of death as suicide, listing the cause as blunt force injuries.
Thomas Gowdy said his nephew was excited about starting a new chapter of his life but added he was also nervous about leaving home.
“He was a little stressed having the weight of the world on his shoulders by going [to a Division I school], and having to leave his two younger brothers and his family in an unstable environment,” he said, noting the family had experienced financial struggles.
According to ESPN, student-athlete was a four-star receiver recruit out of Deerfield Beach and was considered one of the top-rated players coming into Tech as part of the No. 25-ranked class in the country. He reportedly wrapped up his high school classes a semester early so that he could join the Yellow Jackets football team on Jan. 6, according to the university.
Relatives said Gowdy was already packed and ready to head to Atlanta.
The Georgia Tech team was just as as ready to welcome him to the family, but is now instead mourning the sudden loss.
“Our entire Georgia Tech football family is devastated by news of Bryce’s passing,” Georgia Tech football head coach Geoff Collins wrote in a tweet. “Bryce was an outstanding young man with a very bright future. He was a great friend to many, including many of our current and incoming team members.”
Several others took to social media to express their grief and condolences over the star player’s passing.
Jacksonville quarterback Jeff Sims, who also signed with Tech earlier this month, tweeted: “love you brother. We gon do it for you #BallFor7″
“Boy I tell ya, this life shit is treacherous, it’s cold and cruel, and has no heart,” someone else added. “My condolences to Frank Gowdy and his family! RIP BRYCE, #BELIEVEIN7″
Recruiting analyst Michael Langston remembered Gowdy as “such a warm hearted, energetic kid” affectionately known as “Simba.”
“This one tears my heart out about the passing of Georgia Tech signee WR Bryce Gowdy,” Langston wrote. “he brings energy to any room. This isn’t a business to a lot of us in recruiting. The relationships are real so this hurts.”
A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to help the family cover funeral expenses. The page has already raised more than $30,000.
In a final tweet Sunday, Gowdy expressed joy and excitement about joining the Georgia Tech family.
The teen’s mother, Shibbon Winelle, posted an emotional video to Facebook after her son’s suicide was confirmed. Through tears, she explained Gowdy had been battling mental health issues and was behaving strangely in the days before his death.
Hear more in the video below.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.