They won't forget Colby

High Schools

September 28, 2011|By David Carrillo Penaloza

There isn't a day that goes by that Dave Perkins doesn't think about Matt Colby.

Perkins sees him every day. In his living room, there's a photo of his former high school football player. Colby played for Perkins at Estancia and Costa Mesa.

Perkins plans to spend time with Colby before Estancia's home game against Northwood on Thursday night. Perkins, now an assistant at Northwood, knows where to find Colby.

Close to the visitor's locker room at Jim Scott Stadium, there's a tree planted in Colby's memory. Ten years ago on this day, Colby passed away after a Costa Mesa game he played in and Perkins coached.

That tragic night is one Perkins will never forget. After the third play of the game, Perkins saw Colby, a linebacker, make it to the sideline and then collapse.


At 17, Colby died from bleeding and swelling of the brain caused by repeated blunt-force injuries to the head. Perkins lost more than a player.

"It was like losing my son," Perkins said. "His mom [Kelli] was a single mom and football coaches become like father figures."

Perkins' son, A.J., a quarterback, was Colby's best friend. The two played together at Estancia before they transferred to Costa Mesa in 2001 for their senior year.

Perkins became the Mustangs' coach that season. Before the games began, Perkins drove Colby to summer school.

Who drove was about to change when it came to the spring graduation. Kelli had a gift for her son.

"His mom had a car for him," Perkins said. "He was looking forward to graduating. He was looking forward to the rest of his life. He was just a fun teenage kid."

That is how Freddy Gonzalez remembers Colby, his friend and teammate. Gonzalez was one of six other Estancia players who joined Colby at Costa Mesa.

Many of those same teammates will gather for a bonfire at B Street on the Balboa Peninsula Thursday at 6:30 p.m. to remember Colby. They will look at pictures, tell stories, and cry.

"It's tough," Rodriguez said. "You look at pictures and go through some of the highlights from back then, and you ask yourself, 'Where we could've been with this guy today?'

"When you hear his voice [in one of the highlight films] saying his name, year and what position he plays, it's always a shocker that he's gone. We miss him."

Around this time of the year is always complicated for Perkins. One day he's up, a couple days later, he's down.

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