Teicheira Tragedy

One of the state's top junior-to-be football players dies in single-car accident on country road. He was apparently not wearing a seat belt.

I've written about young athletes dying in car accidents before. I've just never met one only two days beforehand.

Daniel Teicheira, a junior at Sierra High of Manteca, died in a solo car accident late Monday night, July 1, near his home. Teichera was driving a 2000 Chevy Blazer by himself when he apparently swerved to avoid hitting a coyote. He veered back across the roadway, struck a concrete irrigation valve, and the SUV rolled. Daniel, who apparently was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected.

The next morning, just after sunrise, an off-duty fireman spotted the overturned vehicle off the roadway. Then he found Daniel's body nearby. He was dead, although it has not yet been determined if he had died instantly.

The previous Saturday turned out to be the last time Daniel heard people cheering his name at a football field and I was the one who arranged it. The event was the 29th Central California Lions All-Star Football Game in Stockton. I've volunteered to help out the game with a few ideas and some media relations and one of those ideas was for organizers to invite some select juniors as guests.

Daniel, of course, was not a junior last season. I still felt compelled to invite him. He was the only sophomore I even thought about inviting. I could have simply decided not to include any sophomores, but for some reason I did and now I feel very glad that I did.

It could have been his 1,500 yards rushing and the 22 touchdowns Daniel scored last season. But I guess what really stood out was what he did at the Stanford Nike Camp in May, an event organized by our parent company, Student Sports Inc. Daniel showed up and made a name for himself by measuring 5-9, 215 pounds and running a 4.49 in the 40. With that combination of size and speed, Daniel was on track to become a major recruit for the Class of 2004.

I invited seven other players to the game on Saturday, all the rest seniors, and told them to arrive at the stadium club, located on top of the east grandstands at UOP's Stagg Memorial Stadium, at 6 p.m. Daniel was the only one to arrive 10 minutes early, so I had the opportunity to spend a little time with him before some of the others showed up. He was polite, but you could tell he really had a burning desire for the game. I had a script written up for halftime introductions that said Daniel was on pace for 5,000 yards for his career. Daniel said that was fine, but he was hoping for more.

Since reading about Daniel's death, I've been walking around in what I would call a semi-state of numbness. It's not like I knew him well or have ever met anyone else in his family. I've more been asking myself questions like, "Why did I feel like Daniel should have been invited to the game?" or "How come I haven't done more to stress how important it is for kids to wear seat belts?"

From now on, every time I interview an athlete, I'm going to make it a priority to tell them about seat belts. For some, it might be a quick reminder. For others, I might tell them the story of how I met Daniel Teicheira and two days later he was dead. For all of them, everytime I mention the seatbelts, I will think of Daniel, his smile (he had braces) and his compact, powerful body. He perished way too soon.

A memorial service for Daniel Teicheira at Sierra High in Manteca was held on Friday, July 5. He will be buried on Tuesday, July 9.

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