Mr. East River.
That is how Falcons football coach Tony Piccalo will forever remember Nick Miner.
“He was the most popular and most visible young man on campus,” Piccalo said Tuesday afternoon. “Ask any of our players who was the unquestionable leader of the team, and they would say it was him.”
Miner, 18, died tragically early Sunday morning while using his F-150 truck to pull another truck from the shoulder of the road onto Dallas Boulevard in east Orange County. A third vehicle collided with the trucks, causing Miner to be ejected from his vehicle and trapped underneath it.
Four of Miner’s teammates were at the scene as it unfolded.
“Nick was our team leader, our captain, our Mr. East River football,” Piccalo said. “To me, he’s the epitome of what you want out of a student-athlete.”
East River (3-5, 1-2) hosts Lake Howell (5-3, 1-2) in a Class 3M (Metro) District 2 contest tonight at 7 p.m.
The game serves as Homecoming for the Falcons. Miner, a state qualifier in boys weightlifting last spring, had previously been selected to the Homecoming court.
Lake Howell players will wear No. 8 decals on their helmets and the Silverhawks cheer team will wear red, silver and white ribbons in Miner’s honor.
“It’s affected a lot of kids when it comes to thinking of their own mortality,” Lake Howell coach Shaun Lorenzano said.
“[Our kids] were wondering if we were even going to play the game, and they’re feeling compassion and empathy and trying to figure it all out. I’m trying to get them fired up, and I can only imagine what [Piccalo] is trying to do with his kids.”
Lorenzano learned of Miner’s death just hours after his 74-year old dad died at a nearby nursing home Sunday morning.
“Now we’ve got to show a good example to these kids on how to deal with stuff like this,” Lorenzano said. “There are kids who are going through this or have gone through this that are looking at me and how I’m handling myself, and I want to make sure I do good for them.
“Everything you go through is a lesson,” he said.
Miner, a former East Orange Thunder youth football player, was a three-year starter at East River who passed for 2,043 yards and rushed for 1,077 yards with 33 total touchdowns in 22 games, according to MaxPreps.
He had deep roots at East River, where his brothers also attended. His dad is a volunteer assistant coach and his mom has been involved with the booster club.
Thursday’s game, which takes place just five days after the accident, is expected to draw a large crowd of mourners and supporters. The Falcons finish their regular season at home next Friday vs. Oak Ridge (1-7).
“There’s no correct way to do this,” Piccalo said of returning to the field. “As the head coach, I’m just trying to keep this ship right. I don’t know how we’re going to get through it, but we’re going to get through it.”
A GoFundMe account under the name “Funeral costs for the Miner Family” has raised more than $54,000 as of late Wednesday morning.
This article originally appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email J.C. Carnahan at firstname.lastname@example.org.