ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Friday nights are football nights for Jacquez Welch's family.
The 18-year old was the team captain for Northeast High School's team, and was known for his love of the game. This Friday, his mom continues to keep football a part of their life as high school football teams across the Tampa Bay area honor Welch during Friday night's games.
"Quez used to always text me and say, 'Mom it’s gonna be a movie tonight' and that’s what he would say all the time. So I’m gonna miss that part of him texting me about the game or televised but I’m there, I’m football all the way," his mother, Marcia Nelson, said.
Last Friday, he presented a signed jersey to his family and scored a 60-yard touchdown. But after a group tackle during the game, Welch never got back up.
Welch was rushed to the hospital where doctors discovered he had a pre-existing brain condition that nobody knew about. It's called arteriovenous malformation, also known as AVM. It's an abnormal connection between the arteries and veins in the brain.
He was taken off life support earlier this week.
Nelson was in the stands when it happened. She said in a press conference Monday that her son's collapse had nothing to do with the sport.
"I don't want anybody to be scared of sports," Nelson said. "It just happened to him at an early age, doing what he loved to do."
A week later, Nelson said she plans on working to raise awareness about the condition.
"I don’t want to see another child (go through) what my child went through. My child was 100% healthy, no problems, no nothing and to just drop like that — it’s a tragedy in its own. So I just want people to be aware of AVM and get that out of it," Nelson said.
Since then, Nelson said she's received messages from others impacted by AVM.
"I’ve been getting stories now to me about their child having it or some parts of it like AVM in their heart or something like that, but I had never heard no stories about it or being tested until now," she said.
She's also received an outpouring of stories about how her son touched their lives.
"What's new to me is how many people he actually reached out to. They messaged me and say my son he helped him through this, he helped him through that," she said.
His impact continues through organ donation. It was a decision she said Welch made when he first got his driver's license at age 16. She believes he's touched at least five people.
Since then, she said she's received messages about organ donation and AVM.
"That means he saved somebody else’s life. It’s like he sacrificed his to save somebody else’s life even though he didn’t realize he did that and could do that, but he has done that. Because he didn’t have a choice what happened to him but he was still able to help somebody when he was down," Nelson said.
Friday night, the football community will keep his memory on the field.
The Northeast High School football team is set to play Dixie Hollins Friday evening. Pinellas County Schools said there will be a moment of silence before the game with teams linking arms on the field.
Dixie Hollins will also present decals with Welch's number to Northeast High School players. Students have also sold red shirts in honor of the team and Welch.
The efforts to honor the player go beyond the game, though. The district said Clearwater High School is also planning to have a moment of silence in honor of Welch before Friday's game and wear helmet decals with his jersey number, 4, and the letters NE for Northeast. They play Clearwater Central Catholic High School, who said they'll wear yellow shirts with a drawing of Jacquez reading "CCC Remembers #4" and "Jacquez Welch Rest in Paradise." They will also have helmet decals.
"That’s love. That let’s me know footballs beyond different teams and different opponents. It means family," Nelson said.
She plans to continue cheering on her son's football family.
"Oh I’m hoping to win we plan to go undefeated all the way. We were 4 and 0 that’s what Jacquez wanted. I believe his team will pull through all the way," Nelson said.
Loved ones said Welch had 4.0 GPA and had received a full scholarship offer to Concordia University the week prior.