They sat on the five-yard line, fourth and goal, when the bell rang. Digging in for a final play, the quarterback lurches backward. He scours the field for any openings, none in sight.
Then, suddenly, the ball spins down the goal line — touchdown.
In a few moments, as the entire playground anxiously watches, the crowd of 8-year-olds explodes in cheers for the game-winning play.
It was during the weekly intramural Friday football game at Red Oak Elementary School when Luc Bodden, then a third grader, caught the final touchdown.
“It was one of the most magical moments I’ve ever seen. It’s what I think of whenever I think of Luc,” former Red Oak P.E. teacher Casey Webb said.
Luc, who died Sept. 14, 2016 at the age of 10, was a loved unofficial member of the high school’s basketball and football teams. News of his death caused an outpour of community grief and support from families and student athletes in Oak Park.
Aside from his experience on the field as a team captain, Luc was a passionate sports fan known for his love of Oak Park High School’s football and basketball teams.
Whether at the homecoming football game or at the California Interscholastic Federation basketball championship, Luc sat on the sidelines sporting Oak Park merchandise while watching his favorite team fight with Eagle pride.
“Every home game he was on the sideline. We fist-bumped before the game and hugged afterwards,” head varsity basketball Coach Aaron Shaw said.
For the past three years, Luc fought sickle cell anemia, enduring two bone marrow transplants and various transfusions. At one point, his condition required an 11-month stay at the Children’s Hospital at the University of California, Los Angeles.
After a successful second bone marrow transplant in 2013, Luc was able to return to Red Oak Elementary School to complete the second grade.
It wasn’t until August 2016 when doctors found an infection in his blood that he was readmitted.
Luc passed away seven days into his stay.
“He gave to us meaning and inspiration. Him fighting adversity made the team and I realize what’s important in life,” Shaw said. “Sometimes we don’t win, but in the big picture, it doesn’t mean anything — seeing him there put everything into perspective.”
Luc’s love for sports led him to meet an array of professional athletes; once, he met his favorite baseball player, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp. Luc often dressed in the merchandise of his favorite professional football team, the Dallas Cowboys.
“You would never know what he was going through — he was having the time of his life,” former OPHS basketball player Jake Slacheert said.
Slacheert, who now plays basketball for the University of California at Santa Barbara, met Luc prior to his first bone marrow transplant in 2013. The two met after then-sophomore Tarren Bodden informed Slacheert of her younger brother’s love for the basketball team.
“He always brought people together, that was the beauty of him — he was the beating heart of the Oak Park community,” Slajchert said.
This was the beginning of a three-year friendship that often had Luc playfully pushing Slacheert to work harder.
“He always pushed me [from] anything less than that was unacceptable in his book no matter what the situation was,” Slacheert said. “He always lit a fire under me.”
Luc also challenged others around him to become better individuals.
“There would be times when we would be watching football films together and he would be asking me why I wasn’t doing certain things, why a guy is not catching the ball or running a good route,” Webb said.
Before transferring to Medea Creek Middle School as a P.E. teacher, Webb worked as a home hospital teacher for Luc. His job was to help children who were out of school due to medical conditions catch up with school work.
For the 2015 football season, Webb asked Luc to be a ball boy for the OPHS football team; he would supply players with water.
“Luc will always be there. He’s apart of the team — our brother. We fight and play every single play for him. He will always be there through every play,” senior and varsity football player Eduardo Mendez said.
Mendez met Luc like many others: in passing a football before a football game. Since then, Mendez and others on the football team grew close to the young football enthusiast.
With Luc’s passing, the football and basketball seasons have been dedicated to Luc’s memory.
“Every field is for Luc,” Mendez said. “We don’t do it for the school. We don’t do it for ourselves. We don’t do it for the coaches. We do it for Luc.”