ROCK HILL, SC (WCNC) -- The football team that was on the charter bus that crashed over the weekend, killing four people, were not your average team, their coach told NBC Charlotte Tuesday.
Rama Jucco Academy is a brand-new nonprofit organization that aims to give kids a second chance at life, academics, and sports.
“Regardless what the world sees you as, you always have a chance to make a change,” Coach Marcus Thompson said. “You may have messed up in high school, this is your second chance to prove yourself. Forget who the world says you are, who are you now?”
Thompson says that was the motto for the Rama Jucco football team, a brand new team of kids who wanted that second chance.
The only requirements: the desire to change for the better, enrollment in college, and at least a 3.0 GPA.
“We emphasized the importance of education first, Thompson explained, “to give them a second chance to get out of the streets and build character.”
After practicing all summer and making the grades, they were ready for their first game.
“They were so excited,” Thompson said, “ready to show their skills and prove themselves.
But on the way there, a horrific accident that killed 4 of them and injured the other 42.
“Right then and there a lot of the guys became men,” Thompson said. “They had to.”
That’s when Coach Thompson says he truly saw his team. A group of kids who had made mistakes, who had so many times been told they weren’t good enough.
“They sprang into action, right away they tried to help their teammates in the coaches, I remember one of the players coming up and holding my hand and saying its ok coach don’t go, don’t leave,” he said. “They saved each other. They saved lives.”
A heartbreaking end of their season before it began. But the start of a team that will be stronger than ever.
“We’re coming back, were going to come back real strong,” Thompson said, adding the surviving players have a long physical and emotional road to recovery ahead, but that they’re looking forward to staying on track and playing next year.
Copyright 2016 WCNC