A 15-year-old Whale Branch Early College High School student who died Saturday was described Monday by his family and teachers as a tireless worker, a strong leader and a good friend.
Grays Hill resident DaQuan Henderson, who played junior varsity football for the Warriors and was described as a good student, died of natural causes, Beaufort County Coroner Ed Allen said.
Henderson's mother, Michelle Williams, said it still isn't known how her son died, and likely won't be for a few more weeks. Williams said her son had an irregular heartbeat, but was cleared to play sports and weight train for football by doctors.
Henderson often tutored other students and was the "very best he could be," English teacher Yolanda Saunders-Polk said.
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"He was always kind, humble and reliable," she added. "He always tried to inspire and encourage others."
Polk said Henderson was well-liked by many students, and read a passage about Henderson from a journal entry written by one of her students for her class Monday.
"I knew you as my brother, my best friend and even as a mentor," the journal entry said. "You taught me how to smile, how to love life, and I can't ever forget you."
Henderson's grandmother, the Rev. Susanna Johnson, said the family has received an outpouring of support from the school, including a group of employees led by principal Priscilla Drake who met with the family. Johnson said her grandson's death was "totally unexpected."
"He was a loving child that was well-loved," Johnson said. "... He would go to bat for the underprivileged kids, because he knew everybody had a light."
Johnson said Henderson aspired to a career in professional athletics, and his effort didn't go unnoticed by the school's coaches.
Henderson began playing football this past fall, as a sophomore, according to coach Jerry Hatcher. He "thrived" in the weight room and had a chance to start at defensive tackle for the varsity team this fall, Hatcher said.
Henderson had hit his first major milestone in offseason training a few weeks ago, reaching 815 total pounds among the three weightlifting exercises -- bench press, squat and power clean. Hatcher said completing the exercises earned him an "800 Pound Club" T-shirt."He was there to take care of business," said Henderson's weight-training teacher, Linc Lyles. "He was mature for his age, very special. It was like talking to an adult. He was wise beyond his years."
Lyles, also the school's boys basketball coach, said he and athletics director Carlos Cave grappled with how to tell the basketball team the news before their Class 1-A state championship game Saturday in Columbia. They broke the news -- and held a moment of silence for Henderson -- after the team's morning shoot-around.
The Warriors fell to C.A. Johnson, 71-64 in overtime.
"I have no idea if it had an impact on the game, but I think it gave our kids strength," Lyles said. "They were very emotional. DaQuan was a very popular kid."
Henderson is survived by his mother, Michelle Williams, stepfather Terence Campbell, grandmother Arabell Williams and siblings Deontre Johnson, Ta-Nisha Campbell, and Terence Campbell Jr. Henderson was predeceased by his father, Martinis Henderson, who died when DaQuan was a year old.
Funeral arrangements are pending and will be handled by Marshel's Wright-Donaldson Home for Funerals.
Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.