Most of you have probably never heard the name "Al Lucas" before. He played for the Los Angeles Avengers in the AFL.
On a kickoff in the first quarter of Sunday's game, he suffered a spinal chord injury while trying to make a tackle. He was pronounced dead after several failed attempts to revive him in a California hospital.
These guys play this sport because they love the game of football. Most of the them don't make a lot of money: the AFL salary cap is under 2 million. The league's highest paid player doesn't even make NFL minimum wage. These guys are going to have to find another way to support their families after their AFL career is over, if they're not already working jobs in the off-season.
It's a league that doesn't have steroid or drug controversies because the policy is simple: if you get caught using drugs, you are banned for life. Period.
What you end up with is a league where it is very, very easy to root for most of the players in it, because the odds are very good they're going to be pretty stand up individuals... they don't make enough money to know any better.
So when a guy like Al Lucas, a 26 year old husband and father who worked during the offseason as an assistant coach at the high school from which he graduated, a guy who was looking forward to being a coach and teacher at that same high school after his AFL career was over... a guy who played 20 games for the Carolina Panthers and kept playing in the hopes he could make it back someday... when a guy like that dies, an entire league of players and fans mourns.
And you should too.