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One year after tragic fishing trip, family of football player Marquis Cooper speaks out

6:18 PM, Feb 28, 2010   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida - Bruce Cooper has a smile on his face, but grief in his heart.

He tries to keep a brave front for his wife, Donna and their family. But, nothing can take away the grief of losing his only son, Marquis.

Bruce told us, "I never thought I'd be in this position that I am. It's sucked the life out of me, my spirit my energy sucked. I've heard the phrase dead man walking, never understood, makes a lot of sense to me now."

The Phoenix sports anchor sat down with us and spoke firsthand about the weekend that Marquis and his buddies, Nick Schuyler, Will Bleakely and Corey Smith, went on a deep sea fishing trip in the Gulf.

They would never return.

See Also: Lessons learned from missing NFL boaters, one year later

A cold front moved into the Gulf that weekend, February 28, 2009. 

The four football players, all strong and in good shape, tried their best to stay afloat after their boat capsized, but fourteen foot swells kept them under water and struggling.

The Coast Guard was alerted over the weekend, and the families of the football players began to gather. They were praying for answers.

"We didn't leave the couch. We didn't fall asleep.  We were just attentive the entire night," Bruce Cooper says.

By the time Monday came, the Coast Guard was still searching, and they found a survivor, Nick Schuyler.

He would be the only one.

Nick Schuyler was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital for treatment.

The other families continued to wait at the Coast Guard station.  They held out hope that the others would also come home.

Cooper remembers the moment that the Coast Guard called off its search.

"Man, you talk about, I think back to that day, wow, that cut deep, matter fact, cut so deep.  My wife fainted inside there," Cooper told us with sigh.

The men would never be found.  A cooler and a lifejacket would be recovered, but no bodies.

Cooper admits, "I was in the abyss. How do you get out? I mean, the walls around you, closing in, no direction."

Now, a year later, Cooper holds on the good memories he has of his 26-year-old son, and the bond they shared.

He even saved a text message.

"The last time I spoke to him was two days before the accident, indicated to me.  Stop by in Arizona, I remember that conversation-I even have the last text message. I keep that."

Melanie Brooks, 10 Connects News

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