The community of Stettler, Wildcats football, his family, and everyone who knew him are mourning the loss of Zachary McCord.
The 17-year-old, who had a passion for sports, especially football, passed away last week after taking his own life.
His father and mother, Curtis and Jodi McCord described Zach as a young man who really cared about others.
“He would always do stuff for you without you even having to ask,” Jodi said. “One of his coaches told me one time it was like having a coach out on the field when he was playing football. He was his brothers’ nemesis. He bugged his brothers to no end but he did take care of the other players on the team.”
Zach is survived by his parents and his brothers Declan, Josh, Andrew, Adam, Ryan, and Reid. As well as his sisters Paige and Kally as well as his girlfriend Jaden.
He was the captain of the undefeated Stettler Cougars football team and played on both the defence as a middle linebacker and on offence as a fullback.
His parents explained he struggled with his mental health. Despite being in great physical condition, Zach always strived to be the best and pushed himself hard because he felt he needed to be stronger and faster.
“He was already stronger and faster than anyone on the football team but he was his hardest critic,” Curtis said.
His mother added Zach struggled with anxiety, OCD, and depression. He continued to fight through those struggles and received help but it eventually became too much.
“He’s got two older brothers and the oldest, I was just talking to him and he was saying right now it just feels surreal… It’s hard to accept and it’s hard to believe that it’s true,” Jodi said.
Zach played hockey and other sports but particularly loved the game of football. When he was out on the field he developed a reputation as a hard worker who gave it his all 110 per cent of the time.
Curtis coached him in many different sports throughout a 10-year span including on the Wildcats football team. He said Zach was a leader on the field and knew the plays like the back of his hand.
“He was the kind of person that led by example. If the team was down he would be the one to go out there and lead the team back. Either get an interception on defence or run the ball and get a touchdown,” Curtis added.
“At the end of the game he would be in the dressing room sitting in his locker he would be just exhausted because he would put in everything he had for the team.”
The young man would even get recognition from his opponents. Curtis explained after a game the opposing coach told him Zach stood out and that if Stettler didn’t have a team they would take him on their team in a heartbeat.
The Wildcats held their first game since McCord’s passing on Friday in Lacombe, Stettler continued their remarkable season with another victory.
Curtis said the team wore No. 21 on each of their helmets to honour their teammate and before the game each team took a knee for 21 seconds.
“It was beautiful. What an honour for Zach. The team is totally behind Zach and showed their support, respect, and honour for Zach,” Curtis said adding the team has dedicated the season to his son.
“They’re going for a championship run and they have a really good shot at it and Zach would have loved to be a part of that.”
The family will be holding his celebration of life on Monday, Oct. 17 at 1 p.m. at the Stettler Community Hall. It will also be streamed on the Stettler Funeral Home website and can be viewed by clicking on Zach’s obituary.