DALLAS - One of the 23 people killed by tornadoes in Alabama over the weekend grew up and played football in North Texas.
Wylie ISD confirmed 22-year-old Ryan Pence played for the Wylie East High School football team before graduating in 2015.
“Well-liked by his teachers. Well-liked by his peers. Made good grades. Was very respectful,” said Mike Williams, principal of Wylie East High School.
“He was a real good leader for us, and that team persevered and got in the playoffs,” former Wylie East football coach Joe Lepsis said.
Pence and his fiancée, 22-year-old Felicia Woodall, were both killed when a devastating tornado hit their home in Beauregard, Ala.
According to published reports, Pence was working for the Eufaula Parks and Recreation Department while completing his criminal justice degree. Woodall, who grew up near Wichita Falls, worked at a hospital.
A co-worker told the TV station that no one could get in touch with them after the storm. A friend who went to check on them found their house completely destroyed or “gone.”
“To see it get cut short, it’s just a tragedy and really makes you sit back and be thankful for every day that you have,” Lepsis added.
“I’ve seen some of his classmates express shock and grief about his passing. You know, a 22-year-old guy, full of life, and you just don’t think about those things happening,” Williams said.
In Facebook posts, friends and family members remembered the couple as dog lovers and kind friends, with infectious smiles, who were beloved by all who knew them. They asked for prayers and support.
Sunday’s storm system spawned at least 34 tornadoes in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. The powerful EF-4 tornado that carved a path nearly a mile wide in Beauregard was the deadliest to hit the United States since May 2013, when an EF-5 twister killed 24 in Moore, Okla.
The 23 tornado victims in Alabama ranged in age from a 6-year-old boy to a couple in their 80s.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.