ELYRIA, Ohio — Elyria High School staff, students, teammates and friends and family are still trying to grapple with the loss of assistant football coach De'van Bogard while planning to celebrate his life.
Bogard, a former Ohio State football player and father of a 5-year-old son, was found dead in his apartment around 2 a.m. Tuesday after a fire started in the building.
"He got out of his bedroom and was attempting to get out, and our crews found him within two feet of the door," said Elyria Fire Chief Joe Pronesti.
Fire officials don't suspect any suspicious activity, but it still doesn’t make the pain any less, especially for those that worked with Bogard every week on the Elyria High football field.
“He was one of the most genuine, nice young men I've ever met. No, there was nothing fake about him, you know, he didn't put on a show for anybody,” said Elyria High School Head Football Coach Devlin Culliver
Culliver and Bogard had similar passions to teach football but more importantly to help young men grow. Bogard told Culliver he wanted to soon be a head coach but wanted to spend a few years learning from him first. Culliver learned the heartbreaking news about Bogard Tuesday morning from the school's principal and superintendent.
"You know, time froze, and I just had to process for a couple of minutes, and then once I did, you know, my first thought went to obviously his son," said Coach Culliver.
The next thing he did was share with the team that learned and grew so much with Bogard.
"You know, as soon as they heard the combination of his name and the words he is no longer here. The room just went from being quiet to filled with noise, with tears and sorrow, which is understandable. You know they're teenagers and I was holding back tears too and coaches were crying," said Culliver.
Though coach Bogard was only at Elyria for two seasons, he impacted those kids in ways they’ll remember the rest of their lives—finishing off the year with an extra chip on their shoulders.
"I think the biggest thing that he's leaving behind here is just the love that he showed the kids, you know, and they're hurting because they feel that love that he left behind, you know, and I'm hoping that this situation that is happening with him stays with these kids, forever drives them," said Culliver.
But his impact doesn’t stop there, Culliver said the football program is stronger than it’s ever been because of Bogard and this season they’ll make sure to play for him.
Culliver allowed the seniors to decide if they will play for Senior Night this Friday and they still plan to while honoring their assistant coach the whole way.
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