BRAMPTON, ONT. - Flags flew at half-mast at Brampton's St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School Sept. 10 in memory of Gene Odulio, 17, who passed away the day before in hospital after he collapsed during a high school football game Sept. 7.

Odulio mysteriously collapsed during an exhibition football match against the visiting Brantford Collegiate Institute. After huddling with his team's defence squad, Odulio, a four-year veteran, fell limp onto the field with about nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. He was rushed to Toronto's Sunnybrook Hospital in critical condition.

"It was a very sad environment at the school this morning ... liturgies were held throughout the morning to remember Gene," Bruce Campbell, spokesperson for the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, said. "That's one of the things about a Catholic school, that we can rely on our faith to help us to grieve and better understand or at least better accept that we are all part of a greater plan."

Campbell said it was a head injury that felled the defensive back. Odulio had no history of head injuries, at least to the school's knowledge.

"There was no discernible hit or triggering playing in the game where you could identify that he might have been injured," said Campbell. "But clearly it was a head injury of some type, he did have swelling so it was a brain injury for sure."

Remembered as an outgoing and popular student, football stood out as Odulio's passion in life.

"He was very passionate about football and that seemed to be a major passion in his life," said Campbell.

The school is considering retiring Odulio's number, a bittersweet tribute to the Grade 12 student, said Campbell.

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA