MYRTLE BEACH, SC — Anthony Liddell had dreams of becoming a physical therapist and moving to a big city, possibly Atlanta, his aunt said on Wednesday, the day after his death in shooting at Coastal Carolina University's University Place residence hall.
"We had no indication whatsoever that we would be burying my nephew at 19 years old," said Adriane Gillespie Davis. "He had such a promising, bright future."
Davis said Liddell, a sophomore, was majoring in sports medicine and had loved sports since he was a child. In high school, she said he played football for the Marlboro County High School Bulldogs, but he also loved basketball and baseball, and still played recreational sports.
His mother's only child, Davis said the family called Liddell "T.J." for "Tony Jr.," after his father, and that he loved helping people, and he loved kids. She said Liddell was a good kid -- respectable, well-mannered and churchgoing -- who loved to have fun and loved video games, music, freestyle rap and making his own CDs. "This was a kid who was in National Beta Club in high school, and he graduated with honors," said Davis, who said he was like her own child, and that they talked often. "He never had any issues with any of the normal stuff teenagers do."
Davis said Liddell liked the beach and liked being at CCU, which is a little over an hour away from his hometown of Bennettsville. She said it was far enough away for him to have his independence but close enough that he could get home quickly.
Liddell played for the Marlboro County High School football team during his junior and senior years at the school before graduating in 2011, said Dean Boyd, the school's athletic director and head football coach.
"Anthony was a great young man. He was very conscious about his grades, he was very school related. He was a teacher cadet. He was on the school's Relay for Life team," Boyd said. "He was just a very, very good young man, all-around. He was very polite and always courteous."
Liddell, who played wide receiver and defensive back, wasn't a starter on the team, but embraced his role as a backup player and "did whatever he could to help the team," Boyd said.
"It's been a tough day. We feel for his parents and want to send out our condolences and sympathy to them," Boyd said. "He was a very good young man, who never got in trouble, who had great grades, was very quiet. He stayed away from trouble. He was never around it. This has been a shock."
At CCU, Liddell worked in receiving, loading packages and making deliveries to various departments on campus, said Suzanne Beverly, manager of central receiving, procurement services. She said her department is small, with only three full-time employees, along with Liddell and his roommate.
"I'm still in a state," Beverly said. "I don't believe that happened here and to happen to someone as good as that child was."
Beverly said Liddell was very quiet and always very polite, saying "yes, ma'am" and "no, ma'am," and asking if there was anything else he could do. At the office's Christmas lunch, she said he was the first to bow his head to say the blessing, and he was on the Dean's List, although he told her that to make the President's List, "That takes a lot of work."
Beverly said she can't imagine it was something other than a random act, and as an only child, his parents have lost their whole world.
"It's just shocking," Beverly said. "I did not know it was him till I came into work this morning, so it's been a bad day."
Junior Frankie Hall knew Liddell and said he was really focused on school and bettering himself.
"He prided himself on academic achievement," said Hall, who lives off campus but got to know Liddell while spending time with friends at University Place, "and he had one of the most heartwarming smiles I have ever seen in a young man."
Hall said he was at University Place when he received the CCU alert about the shooting, and Liddell's roommates came in frantically saying he'd been shot but didn't know any details. He said at that point, they all got into their cars and headed to the hospital to wait for news about their friend.
"He carried himself in a manner where you respected him, with pride and integrity," Hall said. "He knew who he was."
CCU sent a message to its students, faculty and staff Wednesday morning, saying the university community mourns the loss of Liddell.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Anthony Liddell," said CCU President David DeCenzo in a release. "Tragedies such as these anywhere in our society are senseless. Precious loss of life at such an early age affects us all. Our primary goal is to ensure the safety and security of our students. We will continue to do all that we can with all the resources necessary to make sure that our students are safe and secure. We only pray that an event like this never happens on our campus or any college campus again."
The university will host a candlelight vigil in Spadoni Park on campus beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday. DeCenzo and Debbie Conner, vice president for student affairs, will speak at the vigil and an open microphone will be available for students to share memories. Preston McKever-Floyd, professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, will give a closing prayer, and refreshments will be provided.
Davis said she didn't know about possible memorial plans yet, and that the family was doing as well as could be expected in such a situation.
"It's a shock -- I just can't imagine why someone would want to do this," Davis said. "It's like I'm living a bad dream and just waiting to wake up."