According to Kelly Murray, her son Evan was never one to complain, especially when he was feeling ill.

In fact, the New Jersey teen was so good at hiding an illness that the only way Kelly would know if he was sick was if she saw him throw up.

She told Bleacher Report that her son’s toughness had been obvious since birth. Though Evan was born 10 weeks premature, he hardly ever cried, even while he was fighting for his life in the neonatal intensive care unit.

He was always an overachiever. Not only was he Warren Hills Regional High School’s starting quarterback, but he also played baseball and basketball. He dreamed of one day becoming a writer and received his school’s highest PSAT score in the English comprehension section.

But regardless of every sport he played and every goal he achieved, Kelly — like most mothers — constantly worried about her son.

Sept. 25, 2015 — the day Evan died — was no different.

Kelly was in Michigan — she had spent the last eight days there helping her elderly mother move into an assisted living facility — but she wanted nothing more than to be at her son’s football game later that evening.

The morning of the 25th, 13 hours before Evan was set to take the field, Kelly texted her son, telling him “good luck” and asking him to “be safe.” According to Bleacher Report, football was the one sport Kelly didn’t want her son to play, so she ended up becoming a nervous wreck before every game.

For some reason, she was more nervous than usual that day. She told a friend in Michigan that she “should be there with her son.”

From Evan’s perspective, however, everything was going according to plan. Sure he was a bit quieter, somewhat fatigued, and little dehydrated that day, but getting a win later that night was the only thing on his mind.

Six hours before kick-off, he told his coach:

“I can’t wait. This is going to be so much fun. We got this, Coach. We got this.”

During their pre-game rituals, Evan went to the restroom. When he came out, he made a comment about the odd color of his urine to some of his teammates, but never mentioned it again.

Evan suited up and lead his team onto the field, like he always did.

With just a minute left in the first half, Evan suffered his second crushing blow — one that left him walking slowly toward the sidelines. Once he made it to the bench, the team’s athletic trainer, Kevin Call, immediately began checking on him.

While Call was examining him, Evan went unconscious the first time. His dad, Tom, who was the team’s statistician, quickly made his way down to the field to be by his son’s side.

Fearing Evan had suffered a major head injury, the EMTs who were waiting just yards away from the field came over to put the teen on a stretcher. On his way to the ambulance, he gave the crowd a thumbs up, letting them know he was going to be okay.

With his dad riding in the front seat, Evan lost consciousness again. Sadly, this time, first responder couldn’t bring him back. Tom made the phone call to Kelly, who was still in Michigan:

“He didn’t make it,” Tom says.

“What do you mean?!” Kelly yells. “What do you mean?!”

“He didn’t make it,” Tom says. “He’s gone.”

“What are you saying to me, Tom?!” Kelly yells. “Don’t say that to me! Don’t say that to me!”

Sometime after the 17-year-old was laid to rest, a medical examiner revealed that the teen didn’t die as a result of a head injury, but instead because of a lacerated and enlarged spleen caused by mononucleosis.

Posted by Evan Murray on Friday, June 19, 2015

But besides feeling fatigued and dehydrated, Evan didn’t show many of the symptoms that come with mono, such as:

  • Sore throat, perhaps a strep throat that doesn’t get better with antibiotic use
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck and armpits
  • Swollen tonsils
  • Headache
  • Skin rash

Even if Evan had been suffering, he never led on. Evan’s football coach told Bleacher Report:

“It was Evan’s tremendous work ethic that sadly led to his downfall. He never complained about anything. He was so tough, so determined. He never wanted anyone to worry about him.”

The Murrays have received an outpouring of love from Evan’s hero, Peyton Manning, and other professional players and coaches, but Kelly has yet to find peace.

She hopes that by sharing her son’s story, other football families can learn from her loss.

The family doesn’t blame football for Evan’s death; they blame it on “life not always being fair.”

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