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The Linden community mourns the death of student Xavier McClain after being injured in a football game

LINDEN, NJ — A New Jersey community mourns the death of a promising student-athlete. The footballer was seriously injured during a match two weeks ago and died on Wednesday evening.

CBS2’s Alecia Reid spoke with the teenager’s parents on Thursday as they try to come to terms with their tragic loss.

“My son, I need my son here,” Lisa McClain said.

Completely distraught, Xavier McClain’s family still cannot come to terms with his death.

“He liked to play a lot of sports. He liked basketball. He played baseball. He won two Little League championships. He was an athlete,” Norman McClain said.

Dad said his son started playing when he was 5. The second was an outstanding athlete, garnering a lot of playing time on the varsity team. Xavier McClain’s dream was to go to college for football and then turn professional.

“It was his passion. It was his passion. It was his passion. You couldn’t deny him his passion, but they have to do better,” Lisa McClain said.

The Linden Public School District said while playing Sept. 9, Xavier McClain was seriously injured.

“All I saw was he was hit really hard,” sophomore Samantha Arce told CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis. “Seeing him get into the ambulance and everything, it was very heartbreaking.”

The 16-year-old was rushed to hospital. He died Wednesday evening.

“No child should have to go through this at this age. No child should go through this,” Lisa McClain said.

“We’re still going to look into what happened,” Norman McClain said.

“Something must have happened for him to go to the hospital,” added Lisa McClain.

Her mother says safety in sport needs to be addressed. Linden Mayor Derek Armstead, who has a personal relationship with the family, agrees, saying the tragic event will spark debate.

“It will come to the fore as it always does when a child is injured, but, again, it was an accident,” Armstead said.

As friends and teammates continue to honor the teenager, their next match is scheduled for Friday night.

Meanwhile, the school district released a statement that said, in part, “The district sends its deepest condolences and will continue to offer prayers and support to the family during this difficult time. Psychological support for the students, the staff and families has been set up at Linden High School for anyone in need.”

In honor of their teammate, members of the Linden High football team incorporated “E4X” into their uniforms. They spread the hashtag on social media and shared a photo with the caption “Forever in our hearts”.

The mayor said the community would come together to see what could be done to honor McClain.

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