Student-athlete's legacy to live on through donated organs

Photo credit: Marcia Nelson

Just one week ago, Marcia Nelson was celebrating her son's first college scholarship offer.

Monday night, she and hundreds of family and friends gathered to celebrate a life well-lived - and others being saved by the donation of Jacquez Welch's organs.

Jacquez, a standout senior football player at Northeast High School and 4.0 student, collapsed during a game in St. Petersburg, Florida Friday. Doctors said an undiagnosed condition called arteriovenous malformation (AVM) was causing Jacquez's brain to bleed. 

Nelson said the timing of her son's collapse was not related to football, rather, it could have happened at any moment. 

Jacquez remained in intensive care through Monday evening. His family and friends were said to be escorting the teen's body, being kept alive through life support measures, to an operating room where his organs would be removed and taken for transplantation into seven donors.

During a service earlier that evening, Jacquez's mother said her son was brain-dead and doctors were working to find donors for his organs. 

Hundreds were in the stands at Northeast High Friday night when the senior captain collapsed on the football field. The two-way star had just scored on an offensive drive and was back on the field to play defense. Welch went down while making a tackle, and he never got back up. 

In a statement, a Pinellas County School spokesperson said grief counselors would be available for any students who need to talk to someone. 

"Jacquez Welch is a beloved member of the Northeast High School football team and the school community. Our thoughts are with his family during this difficult time."

Days before the football game, a former Northeast High football captain was fatally shot. St. Pete police said 20-year-old Marquis Scott was targeted, and they continue to search for the shooter.