VIDEO: Coach and Headmaster Remember Fallen Teen

WEST POINT, Miss. (WCBI) – The community at Oak Hill Academy is mourning the loss of 16 year-old Thomas Lee Bales.

Bales lost his life from a swimming accident at Smith Lake in Alabama, while on a youth retreat.

Speaking with his coach and headmaster gives us more of an idea of how hard this loss is for Oak Hill.

As far as size, Bales was not the biggest.

As far as character and heart, he was huge.

“I actually had my family out back to school shopping when I found out about it, and I had to take a knee in Dick’s Sporting Goods. It hurt me. It hurt me really bad,” said head football coach, Chris Craven.

“It was devastating. You talk about any young person dying; it’s awful. Thomas Lee was a very special young man. Everybody loved him. He always had a smile,” said Oak Hill Headmaster, Dr. Cathy Davis.

Bales was said to be a good friend to his classmates off the field.

When he was on the field, he was a true teammate.

Size may not have been his advantage, but his tenacity is what gave him his starting position on the football team.

“It didn’t matter how big you were or anything like that; he was coming. He was coming. He was going to give you all he had every time, and it was a joy. It was so much fun to watch his play when he got out there and all that heart and all that character, no fear. He showed no fear when it came from time to play,” said Craven.

Several months ago Bales and several other teammates got a visit from NFL Network Insider, Ian Rapoport.

After finding out what happened to Bales, he sent this tweet, saying:

“…He was a budding football star at Oak Hill Academy and a great kid. It is a horrible reminder that life is too short and sometimes incredibly unfair.”

Bales team sees this loss as a time to come together even more than they already were.

“We’d rather have him, but at the same time we’re going to honor him. If we can all come together and we can play with hear and we can be tough and we can say yes sir, no sir, yes ma’am, no ma’am, and show respect and be men of character, we’re going to honor him and celebrate his life by playing and practicing the way he lived,” said Craven.

School begins tomorrow for Oak Hill.

Members from Fellowship of Christian Athletes, as well as councilors and pastors will be available for students.


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