Too soon, just much too soon to give it a real try.
Just hours before on a warm and sunny Friday afternoon last week, they were at Golden Gate Funeral Home on the northwest side of Milwaukee for a wake, wearing blue T-shirts, the uniform of solidarity and remembrance, with the words "Tyler Webb, too well-loved to be forgotten" on the front.
A mournful song by the great Aaron Neville played over the sound system.
Quiet sniffles, endless hugs, lost looks skyward and a scramble to put the numerous photo boards in place were all in motion. On the photo boards were one smiling picture of Webb after another, never alone, getting hugs, giving hugs, getting an embarrassed buss on the cheek from a pretty girl, out with his teammates, always laughing.
And just hours later that same Friday, his Nicolet football teammates, many of whom were among those who bid a sad farewell to the 16-year old Webb, tried to play their first game without him against a better Waukesha South squad.
He would have very likely been a starting cornerback for the team, but for reasons still unknown and likely never to be known, he took his own life just eight days earlier.
Of course with all that hanging over the team, the game didn't go well. It was much too soon for everyone to try, but there it was on the schedule. The Knights lost, 53-6, but coach Dave Quam who was also at the wake and who attended the very moving service for Webb the next day at Christ the King Baptist Church, tried to put it in perspective.
"This was just so hard for the kids," he said. "They were trying to be strong, but it was just a tough week for all of them, the players, for everyone in the school. I can't imagine a tougher week in their lives to this point."
'We'll be together again'
Quam said the minister on Saturday did a tremendous job, especially for those who have a strong faith like he does.
"It really did help," Quam said. "His message was that we will see Tyler again. That death is not a period, but a comma (in life's journey). That it's just halftime to him right now and he'd really want us to move on, get on with our lives. Because we'll be together again some day."
And for the time-being, the team will remain together. It will try to rally around the likes of game, first-time quarterback Alex Baez, whom Quam said held his poise well despite being under a ferocious South rush all evening.
Others acquitted themselves well, too. Quam said running back Jemalle Williams, a good friend of Webb's, ran very hard Friday night. Tyler Wright got the only touchdown for Nicolet, a four-yard run in the second quarter.
One excellent thing that came out of the game was that no one got hurt.
"It was a tough day, a tough week-and-a-half," Quam said. "We have to give South credit. They were a nice team, a team that had worked hard to be ready. I give our kids credit. It had to be hard to be in the game. To be out there trying."
Tosa East next
They will try again when they visit Wauwatosa East at Hart Park at 7 p.m. Friday. East took it hard on the chin to arch-rival Wauwatosa West in its opener, too, and so both teams will be looking for a little success, a little momentum.
"We'll have a full week of practice and we'll be able to focus on school and football," Quam said. "We'll get better. It'll all get better. It'll just take some time."
Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.
Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter Get the Newsletter!
- Sports wrapups: March 4
- Sports wrapups: Feb. 25
- Nicolet wrestler Kalloch not to be denied, earns state berth
- Sports wrapups: Feb. 18
- Nicolet sending seven entries to state boys swim meet
- Signing day a success big and small all over the North Shore
- Sports wrapups: Feb. 11
- Homestead wrestlers show character in claiming four NSC titles
- Bay boys continue to roll, overpower young Nicolet squad
- Bay boys hoops team gets defensive in overpowering Nicolet, 62-26