David Coleman Jr.

INDEPENDENT LEAGUES

 

DAVID COLEMAN JR., 31, offensive lineman with the Jay County Panthers in Portland, IN, a semipro team, died on 5/12/12 after being laid out by a block to his chest that he never saw coming on a punt return.  The game was in Springfield, OH, against the Northwest Ohio Knights, and Coleman was running downfield to cover the punt.  He was knocked out and his heart stopped beating, and paramedics on the field were unable to revive him.  His younger brother, Anthony Coleman, 27, a linebacker and the team’s best player, was on the sideline.  The coroner later told Coleman’s family the impact he sustained was like a 60 mph car crash.  Several players quit after the death, some of them after being persuaded–and even threatened–by their wives and girlfriends.  The league is comprised of regular working men, and the term “semipro” is really a misnomer, since no one makes any money from playing and players have to buy their own equipment, plus pay for the refs.  Coleman left behind 5 daughters by 3 different women.  A big Ohio State football fan, he was buried in a Buckeyes baseball cap with an OSU T-shirt draped over his coffin.  The man who blocked Coleman, also a father, wouldn’t leave his house for a long time and wouldn’t speak to the media.  The team folded after one more game, a tribute to Coleman.  Donations for Dave Coleman’s family may be sent to: Dave Coleman II Memorial, First Federal Bank, P.O. Box 429, Napoleon, OH 43545.  Anthony Coleman says all the money will go toward Dave’s daughters.—“Games of chance”, ESPN Outside The Lines 12/19/12, Kevin Van Valkenburg.

Veronica Gazzillo

VERONICA GAZZILLO, 39, offensive linewoman with the Chicago Force of the Independent Women’s Football League, 2010, died unexpectedly on 8/10/14 at her home in Evanston, IL.  She was a league all-star and team offensive MVP in her only season, but was unable to continue playing due to injuries and joined the coaching staff for the Force’s 2013 championship team.  “There were mixed reactions from my family and friends when I decided to join the Force.  The main reaction was ‘Wow, but aren’t you too old to play?’”  A union ironworker for 15 years, Gazzillo was a former U.S. Army military police officer until she was given a Chapter 15 discharge for being a lesbian.  She said in 2010 that another female in her platoon found out that Gazzillo was gay and told her commanding officer.  “When I was approached by my commanding officer on the allegations, I did not deny them.  I am gay and I’m not ashamed of it.  I was a stellar soldier and an expert on weapons.  I also was top in all my classes, physical training and overall combat military skills.  I figured being gay was not going to affect my ability to serve and protect my country.  I was wrong.  After 3 months of being treated like scum and being interrogated on who else was gay in our unit, they finally discharged me, [but] without giving up any of my fellow brothers or sisters.”  Regarded by all her teammates as a wonderful, loyal, helpful friend with a huge heart, she is survived by her wife, Tori Gazzillo, son Jason, and daughter Courtney.  Donations can be made at www.giveforward.com/veronica+gazzillo                “Chicago Force assistant coach dies suddenly”, Windy City Times 8/20/14, Ross Forman.

8/27/14 Gazzillo Update: According to friend Taylor Malloy’s blog, Veronica Gazzillo committed suicide.

[My 8/6/15 Comment: While the reasons for any suicide can be very complicated and multidimensional, according to an LA Times article, female military veterans commit suicide at nearly 6 times the rate of other women.  Suicide rates also rise sharply after service members leave the military.  28.7 female veterans per 100,000 people commit suicide compared to 5.2 for all other women.–“Female veterans’ suicide rate is ‘staggering,’ researchers say”, LAtimes.com 6/18/15, Alan Zarembo.]