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River Bluff mourns death of Lewis Simpkins, the boy with the ‘infectious smile’

Videos show strength, character and smile of River Bluff's Lewis Simpkins

Submitted videos reveal 14-year-old Lewis Simpkins's character. Chris Wooten, trainer at Body Shop and football coach at River Bluff describes Simpkins, a sophomore defensive tackle, as the glue that held the team together. Simpkins died after foo
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Submitted videos reveal 14-year-old Lewis Simpkins's character. Chris Wooten, trainer at Body Shop and football coach at River Bluff describes Simpkins, a sophomore defensive tackle, as the glue that held the team together. Simpkins died after foo

Lewis Simpkins was River Bluff High School’s student with the “infectious smile.”

The 14-year-old sophomore was loved and accepted by his schoolmates, and he loved them in return, said Chris Wooten, Lewis’ trainer and former football coach.

“From the day you meet him, you know he’s special,” Wooten said. “He made the family – just a big glue stick for the whole family.”

Wooten was one of hundreds of friends, family and staffers at River Bluff mourning the loss of Lewis, who collapsed during the varsity team’s football practice on Wednesday around 7 p.m. He was rushed to Lexington Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, according to Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher.

Lewis’ preliminary autopsy report came back inconclusive on Thursday, Fisher said in a written release. Additional tests are underway.

“We are awaiting the test results of several studies that should take several more days to complete,” Fisher said. “We want to be as thorough as possible in our investigation.”

Without any official report determining what happened to Lewis, those close to him were left on Thursday to wonder “why.” Wooten, whose 15-year-old son was a teammate of Lewis, said his son was wrestling with it all.

“How do … how do you explain that to a 14-year or 15-year-old kid,” said Wooten, with his voice breaking as he held back tears. “Why? Why do bad things happen to good people? I don’t know. But he was such a great kid. Such a great kid.”

Simpkins’ parents couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. River Bluff staff and counselors were available Thursday for students in the school’s cafe.

Wooten said nothing out of the ordinary happened during Wednesday’s practice, when Lewis collapsed. It wasn’t as hot as it had been just a couple of days prior. Hydration is always emphasized to the kids.

Lewis had recently devoted himself to God during a camp for Christian athletes, Wooten said. The teen wasn’t a party boy, and split his time between church, football and training at Wooten’s gym, Bodyshop Athletics in Lexington.

At the gym and on the field, Lewis was a “phenomenal kid,” Wooten said. The 6-foot-2 defensive tackle was preparing to wear the No. 90 jersey, as he had been recently promoted to the varsity team.

He was the kind of player people knew was special when they saw him walking down the field, Wooten said. Lewis was so good that he would have likely played professionally in the future, Wooten said.

Lewis dreamed of joining Clemson University’s football team, where his brother plays. But he still had several years to go at River Bluff, where his death rippled through the school and neighboring communities that responded with an outpouring of support on social media.

South Carolina men’s basketball coach Frank Martin, USC baseball coach Chad Holbrook and Clemson baseball coach Monte Lee were among those who posted messages of condolences on social media. And Columbia’s Fireflies baseball team held a moment of silence honoring Lewis on Thursday.

The Gators won’t play in Friday’s Lexington County Sportsarama. River Bluff was scheduled to play Mid-Carolina in the event at White Knoll High School.

Lewis was planning to spend the weekend at the home of his teammate, Jeff Bramblett, said Jeff’s father, Bobby. Lewis was the first teen to reach out to Jeff when his family moved to Lexington in March. Jeff considered Lewis one of his closest friends, Bramblett said.

“He was like a gentle giant and one of the good ones,” Bobby Bramblett said. “There is a lot of bad out there in the world, but he is not one of them. I never had a problem with him.”

Staff writer Lou Bezjak contributed to this story.

Want to help?

Bodyshop Athletic Shop in Lexington has set up a gofundme page for the Simpkins’ family at http://bodyshopathletics.com/lewis-simpkins-fund

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