Hun­dreds at­tend fu­neral for teen foot­ball star Bryce Gowdy

Orlando Sentinel - - LOCAL & STATE - By Wayne K. Rous­tan

DEER­FIELD BEACH — Count­less tears re­placed the cheers as Deer­field Beach High School Bucks star wide-re­ceiver Bryce Jaden-Lee Zane Gowdy was laid to rest Satur­day.

The school’s au­di­to­rium was so full — of fam­ily, friends, team­mates, lo­cal and vis­it­ing dig­ni­taries, as well as other mourn­ers — that a big screen was set up in the gym to han­dle the over­flow crowd at­tend­ing the fu­neral for the 17-year-old ev­ery­one knew as “Simba.”

A long pro­ces­sion passed by the open cas­ket at the foot of the stage. It was sur­rounded by flow­ers and posters of Gowdy flash­ing his trade­mark smile.

His mother, Shib­bon Winelle, bent over to kiss him, with sup­port from her other sons, Bray­den and Bri­sai. Later in the cer­e­mony, she played Jo­hann Pachel­bel’s Canon in D on a dou­ble bass with a string en­sem­ble.

Gowdy stepped in front of a train Dec. 30, ap­par­ently over­whelmed by con­cern for the un­cer­tain fu­tures of his home­less mother and two younger brothers as he pre­pared to leave them to at­tend the Ge­or­gia In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy on a full foot­ball schol­ar­ship.

Ge­or­gia Tech’s coach­ing staff at­tended the cer­e­mony, say­ing it was an honor to be al­lowed to par­tic­i­pate.

“Bryce Gowdy will al­ways be a mem­ber of our Ge­or­gia Tech foot­ball fam­ily,” said Yel­low Jack­ets head coach Ge­off Collins, to ap­plause. “I re­mem­ber look­ing at him and think­ing, ‘That’s go­ing to be my guy for the rest of my life.’”

About two dozen oth­ers took turns on the stage to cry, laugh and sing — and to praise the stu­dent ath­lete who also had a flare for po­etry, paint­ing, pho­tog­ra­phy, play­ing the sax­o­phone and drums, and even the theater and mod­el­ing.

Bucks team­mate Christophe­r Townsel was among them. Re­call­ing how they were friends since the age of 5, he said Gowdy took him to par­ties, split piz­zas with him, and had long talks.

“We’d have deep talks in the car, me and him, talk­ing about his mom and brothers,” Townsel said, chok­ing back emo­tions. “It just seems un­real.”

Broward County Mayor Dale Hol­ness took the stage to of­fer words of en­cour­age­ment to Gowdy’s fam­ily, not­ing the death of his 28-year-old son David An­drew Hol­ness in 2017.

“I too lost a son un­der sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances a lit­tle over two years ago,” he said. “I do un­der­stand the loss and the pain. It is dif­fi­cult. It will be for some time. I’ll just say to you, this: Re­mem­ber all the good times.” wkrous­[email protected]­sen­tinel .com or 954-356-4303.

MIKE STOCKER/SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SEN­TINEL

Friends, fam­ily and team­mates gath­ered at the Deer­field Beach High School au­di­to­rium for the fu­neral of foot­ball star Bryce Gowdy on Satur­day.

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