San Luis Obispo High School soccer player Alex Maier was remembered Thursday by teammates and his coach as humorous and approachable, tenacious on the soccer field, and a leader by example.
The 17-year-old varsity senior forward died Wednesday from injuries sustained in a vehicle crash two days earlier.
Maier’s parents, Gary Maier and Dr. Deborah Cherry, issued a statement Thursday that said their son designated himself as a tissue and organ donor when he was 16, which is “a testament to the great kid that he was.”
“We are very thankful for all of the support from our community,” they said. “It has been so comforting to see the outpouring of love for Alex and to be surrounded by so many of his friends.”
Growing up, Maier played on local AYSO and club teams before becoming a member of the high school varsity team.
On Monday, he played in a home match against St. Joseph High School, which the Tigers won 8-0.
The crash occurred shortly thereafter. That lit up the cellphones of friends and teammates, many of whom went to the hospital.
Maier’s death led to a flood of support from students who gathered at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, where he was taken, and on a school field to honor him and grieve.
Some were able to read notes and say their final words to him as he lay unconscious in the hospital in the hours before his death, said San Luis Obispo High Principal Leslie O’Connor.
“It was a wonderful surprise to learn that Alex had signed up to be a donor because we had also come to the same decision for him,” his parents added in the statement. “ In our grief, it was comforting to carry out his wishes and help so many others.”
“He smiled often and he was just a nice kid,” said Jordan Knauer, a teammate who grew up playing soccer with Maier. “He brought everybody up. He was a leader on our team.”
Another teammate, Lukas Holocher, said that he’d spent time with Maier this past weekend. The close friends played a soccer video game together as Maier recuperated from an appendectomy last week.
“Really I just wanted to support him after his surgery,” Holocher said. “He just loved being social. He had a lot of friends.”
As a striker and one of the team’s goal scorers, Maier wanted the ball in critical moments of the game, said boys varsity coach Frank Marotti Jr.
Marotti recalled that about a month ago, a free kick near the goal gave San Luis Obispo an opportunity to take the lead late in a scoreless game against Atascadero High School.
“He was practically begging me to take that shot,” Marotti said. “I told him ‘Just put it on frame.’ He knocked it in and we went on to win 2-0.”
Marotti, describing him as a “tough kid,” added that Maier was supposed to take two weeks off after his appendix was removed but instead wanted to play after just one week. Maier logged about 20 or 25 minutes against St. Joseph on Monday, nearly knocking in some shots on goal.
O’Connor said Maier had planned to attend college, and he urged his friends and teammates to follow his lead and to be good students as well as good athletes.
Offered the chance to cancel their game against Paso Robles High School today, the boys decided to play in his honor.
The game, originally scheduled for the road, has been moved to 4:30 p.m. at home after Paso Robles agreed to allow Tigers fans to support the team in their own stadium.
About 130 T-shirts that read “We play for you Alex” have been made and will be worn by the junior varsity and varsity boys and girls teams today during school. The basketball team will wear wristbands in his memory.
“We’re really motivated to just play the rest of the season for Alex,” teammate Jesus Vazquez said.
Goalkeeper Michael Lambert said the team decided to play because “Alex would have wanted it that way.”
A memorial for Alex Maier will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday at San Luis Obispo High School’s Holt Field. The public is welcome to attend.