Love is what defined the life of former Bowman Academy football player Xavier Walton. The fact that his life ended on Valentine's Day is both tragic and telling for the lineman at Anderson University.
Walton was playing an intramural basketball game on Feb. 14 when he collapsed.
"He didn't have a heart beat when he hit the floor," said his mother, Sara Walton, who lives in Gary.
"His heart stopped beating right there," said his grandmother, Loujeanne Walton.
The cause of death has yet to be determined.
Visitation will be held Saturday at Bowman Academy in Gary from 9-11 a.m. The funeral service will begin at 11. The Anderson football team and administration plan on being at the services.
"He lived by it, it's who he was," Sara Walton said of her son's deep Christian faith. "Everything he did, he tried to have a Christ-like love. He mentored friends. He tried to help anyone he could reach out to. He didn't judge others.
"He always turned the other cheek if someone wronged him."
Anderson football coach Bobby Ladner said the same things that Walton was known for at Bowman, love and friendship, were the same personality traits he showed at the school, where he was a visual communication design major.
Walton had a very high grade point average, showing he was a strong student academically, socially and spiritually.
Ladner said Walton was a leader in minority-student programs at the college in downstate Madison County.
"He was very popular on campus, a true leader," Ladner said. "He was gifted in the arts and very good at it. He was a good football player, he worked hard. He lettered as a freshman.
"He helped us on the field. His teammates respected him. Xavier was a strong Christian kid who loved everyone he came in contact with."
The game was being played at the Kardatzke Wellness Center on the campus. His mother said the paramedics got there within five minutes but he was already dead.
Walton played four years of football at Bowman and two years of basketball for coach and athletic director Marvin Rea. Having the funeral at the school on 5th Avenue made perfect sense.
"Xavier was a joy to work with," Rea said. "He was dedicated to his team and school. He had a bubbly personality and tried to lift up all of his classmates.
"He was very grounded. His religious values could be seen by everyone. He was a great kid and will be missed."
His family was very involved at their church, Celebration Ministries, in Park Forest.
"It's such a tragic loss, this is not the normal process," Sara Walton said. "We've asked God why and we have the answer. God has something else for Xavier to do.
"He was an angel on this earth and now he's looking down over us."