High School Sports

Federal Way community remembers football player who ‘always had a smile on his face’

Allen Harris always had a smile on his face. He was kind to his classmates at Federal Way High School, and shared his positive energy with his teammates on the football field.

He impressed his teachers with his work ethic in the classroom, and inspired his football coaches with his consistent effort. He loved to dance as a member of the Pacific Islanders Club, and would give his lunch money to a student in need.

Harris, who died suddenly Tuesday after collapsing during a football team workout, will be remembered by the Federal Way community as a “wonderful soul.”

Thursday night, hundreds gathered near the south end zone at Federal Way Memorial Stadium to honor the 16-year-old, and share memories and warm sentiments about his life.

“He was just a good person,” Harris’ teammate Trey Davis said. “He was funny, loving, and he always had a smile on his face.”

Another teammate, Alphonzo Tuputala, led off a series of speeches and stories detailing Harris’ admirable character.

“Let’s just share the love, share the positive vibes with each other, because that’s what Allen would have wanted,” Tuputala said to the crowd.

The vigil began at dusk, and continued into the night as more than a dozen family members, friends, teachers, coaches and teammates made remarks about how Harris had left a lasting impact on their lives.

One student detailed how Harris offered him lunch money when he couldn’t afford food. Another spoke about Harris’ enthusiasm about being a member of the Pacific Islanders Club, his love of dance, and how it inspired her to work harder.

Harris’ sister said it was amazing that her brother had touched so many people.

“This is beautiful, and I just want to say love and cherish your family, because you never know when it will be too late,” she said.

Harris’ aunt sent a red, heart-shaped balloon — the first of more than 100 balloons released — into the night sky above the stadium for her nephew. His mother said she was overwhelmed by and appreciative of the community support.

One of Harris’ teammates read a written message from Federal Way football coach John Meagher, who was out of the country and unable to attend.

“It is with great sorrow that I write about the loss of Allen Harris,” Meagher’s message read. “Allen was an Eagle football player and PI club member, but more importantly a son, a brother, a teammate, a student and a wonderful soul.

“Personally, I will miss Allen’s smile, laugh, consistent work ethic and kindheartedness. Allen was unique in that his true motivation in being a football player was to be a part of something bigger than himself. To be part of the football family. The Eagle football players and coaches are devastated and heartbroken by Allen’s passing. Right now, like all of us that knew Allen, we’re searching for answers.

“But, mostly I just want you all to know that two days ago, the world got a little less kind with Allen’s passing. Allen was a good boy. Rest in peace.”

During the entirety of the vigil, Harris’ teammates, who organized the event, stood facing the community. As it concluded, they chanted “brotherhood” and huddled together for a prayer.

Many were present Tuesday when Harris collapsed. The team was finishing up conditioning, Davis said, when Harris fell. Teammates stayed with him until South King Fire crews arrived.

“We were just by his side the whole way until the ambulance came,” Davis said.

Harris was transported to St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way, but could not be resuscitated. The King County Medical Examiner’s Office later confirmed that Harris died of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that is common among young athletes, and can go undetected in many cases because it often does not produce symptoms.

“Everything we do has got to be for him, and bigger than us,” Davis said. “If we’re facing adversity, if we’re going through something, we just have to think of Allen and push through it, and do it for him because he’s not here to do it. He died on the field doing something he loved to do.”

Federal Way’s players and coaches said they will dedicate their season to Harris, and vowed to mirror the same positive work ethic Harris consistently displayed.

“We can’t play for ourselves this season,” teammate Poet Grayson said. “We have to dedicate it to him, go out 110 percent every play, and know that he’s watching us.”

Lauren Smith: 360-754-5473, @smithlm12