High schools

Vigil at Shawnee Mission West mourns Andre Maloney, football player who died after a stroke

Updated: 2013-10-08T12:33:34Z

By SAM McDOWELL

The Kansas City Star

Andre Maloney was best known for his talents on the football field, but he was actually quite the basketball player, too.

He grew up playing hoops for a team called the Knights. His coach since the first grade, Johnjoe Lopez, on Sunday recalled Maloney’s final summer-league basketball game.

Maloney had just returned from a trip to KU, where he made an oral commitment to play football. Lopez asked Maloney to go easy, fearful Maloney might hurt himself.

Maloney disobeyed.

“Andre did not know how to go half speed,” Lopez said, before later adding, “That’s how he was in life. Whatever he did, he gave it everything he had.”

Friends and family gathered Sunday on the football practice field at Shawnee Mission West High School to remember Maloney, who died Friday evening after suffering a stroke and collapsing during a football game Thursday at SM South District Stadium.

Maloney, 17, was kept on life support hours after he was pronounced dead Friday so that his organs could be harvested, the family said in a statement.

That was his wish. When he received his drivers license a year ago, he signed up to be an organ donor.

“I know we didn’t get the miracle we were praying for,” said Morgan Mauck, Maloney’s girlfriend. “But because he chose to donate his organs, five other families got the miracle they were praying for. He would not have wanted it any other way.”

Mauck was one of a dozen people who took the microphone Sunday to speak to a crowd of about 600 standing on the practice football field on a chilly evening.

Coaches, teammates, friends and family members took turns sharing stories to describe Maloney’s talents, his dream-big attitude and his infectious yet goofy smile. Most of all, they spoke of his commitment to the people in his life.

“The three most important things to him were faith, family and football — in that order,” Mauck said. “He was so incredibly humble, even though he had every reason not to be.”

A longtime friend and teammate, Justin Fetzer, remembered Maloney’s drive for success. Maloney scripted the letters “MiB” on his socks and used it as a common Twitter hashtag.

Make it big.

“Congratulations on making it big,” Fetzer said. “Much love from all of us down here.”

The SM West football team stood in a group Sunday, surrounding the family of Maloney before the memorial. They retreated to the crowd a short time later, joining a large contingent of players from other high schools, including Olathe East, Grandview and Louisburg, which has spent its football season mourning the death of Auston McLellan, who died in a car crash two weeks before the season.

A few of Maloney’s teammates spoke briefly. Senior Carredyn Steele recalled sharing a winless eighth-grade football season with Maloney and credited Maloney with preventing him from quitting.

At the conclusion of the vigil, Karla Montoya, Maloney’s cousin, asked the crowd to point toward the sky. Together, they imitated Maloney’s touchdown celebration, in which he points to God.

On Sunday night, Montoya said, they pointed to a friend, family member and teammate gone too soon.

| Sam McDowell, smcdowell@kcstar.com

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