Family calling for change following Omaha South football player death

The family of Drake Geiger says the 11th-grader died of heatstroke after collapsing during...
The family of Drake Geiger says the 11th-grader died of heatstroke after collapsing during Omaha South High School football practice on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021.(Courtesy photo)
Published: Aug. 15, 2021 at 7:07 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The family of 16-year-old Drake Geiger keeps his shoes on their front porch and a red ribbon around the tree in their yard. Small ways to honor and remember the brother and son they lost.

“He was just a wonderful person and beautiful soul and he didn’t deserve to pass away so early so young,” says Aaren Geiger, Drake’s older sister.

Drake died Tuesday after collapsing during his first football practice of the year. Drake’s father tells 6 News the doctors told them they couldn’t revive his heart and that he was severely overheated.

“The heat index I believe was 105 degrees,” Aaren says.

The area was in a heat advisory all afternoon and into the evening with the heat index peaking at 106-108, according to First Alert Chief Meteorologist Rusty Lord.

Now, Aaren and her family want to see a change. They’ve started a petition they hope to present to the Nebraska School Activities Association.

“The petition is calling on the NSAA to update their heat guidelines. Basically, the heat index guidelines say the heat index has to be 125 degrees for practice to be suspended,” Aaren says. “Obviously there needs to be a change. There’s been too many injuries and deaths and it’s time to call upon them for a change.”

The NSAA’s guidelines say outdoor practices should be modified in extreme temperatures.

Between a heat index of 105 and 124 degrees, it says players should only be in shorts and shirts, no pads, and no helmets. Right now, the Geiger family says they aren’t sure what players were wearing during practice that day.

Aaren says the NSAA should also take into consideration the temperature of turf fields compared to grass fields.

“When you factor in the heat of the turf, the temperature had to be well above 140 degrees [that day]. You know, that’s way too hot,” she says. “Coaches should probably be a little more informed and knowledgeable about keeping kids informed about hydration, and I think water on the field, within close reach, should be mandatory, and cool down stations should be mandatory.”

A recent study shows that in 2020, three high school football players from around the nation also died from heat-related illnesses during or after practice. Since 1995, 51 young players have died.

“You shouldn’t have to drop your kids off at a sports practice and worry that they’ll never make it home,” Aaren says.

The family has set up a GoFundMe account to assist with expenses.

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