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Black remembered by teammates, coaches

He wore his Morris colors right until the end.

While the community of Morris are mourning the death of former Redskins' football player Abe Black, kind words have already started to flow about the running back.

The 2008 Morris Community High School graduate was struck and killed by a train on Saturday morning. When found by the authorities, he was said to be wearing a Redskins T-Shirt.

"Abe always had his Redskins gear on," Black's friend and former teammate Drew Hanson said. "When I heard that's what he was wearing I said, 'that sounds like Abe'."

Hanson, Nathan Slattery, Derek Cryder and Jake Elleson all used to hang out together growing up.

"Basically since the sixth grade," Elleson said. "We hung out together all the time. He knew how to make us all laugh."

Black was a running back who was listed at 6-1, and he weighed 203 pounds his senior season.

"We used to call him the dancing gazelle, but he was the biggest and fastest kid on the team," Hanson said. "He was a big kid and could run right over you if he wanted."

"Abe was one of the stronger, faster kids that I had at the high school. He had a lot of speed but more strength. He ran the ball tough," said George Dergo, Black's football coach at Morris. "We used him in the mix with the Tondini's (Adam and Drew) that year. He was a big, physical guy. A good-sized physical kid."

"That year" was in 2007 when the Redskins made it all the way to the IHSA Class 5A State Championship Game. It was his senior year and Black was the Redskins' second-leading rusher in terms of yards. That season he ran 134 times for 550 yards (4.10 yards per carry) and he scored four times.

"We were together, played all sports together," Elleson said. "We ran track together, and we went to state together. He was one of my best friends. It's like losing a teammate and a friend all at the same time. It's hard."

"He was a positive kid all of the time. He never complained. He fought through injuries and didn't miss a beat," Dergo said. "He loved playing football. We had him set up to play at the College of DuPage. He gave it a try but it wasn't his thing. He was a good kid, it's too bad this happened."

Hanson said that the two were scheduled to get together on the day of the incident.

"He was one of the nicest kids. He was never mean to anyone," Hanson said. "He's one of the nicest kids I'll ever meet."

"He was a great kid and he had all the talent in the world," former Morris coach Andy Peterson said. "He was a lovable kid ... I don't know anyone who can say a bad thing about him."

Black's best game of the season in the fall of 2007 came against Minooka — a 42-7 victory by Morris. That day, Black ran the ball 17 times for 126 yards and scored once. Against Pontiac in the season opener, Black ran the ball 29 times for 121 yards. He also scored twice in the game against Romeoville.

In the state championship, a 17-14 loss against Metamora, Black had 8 yards on three carries.

There is a movement going on around town to help raise funds for the cost of Black's funeral expenses, including the funeral and headstone.

"There are jars at the Morris Bakery, Feeney's Liquor and Griffin's Pint for people who want to contribute," Hanson said. "The last I checked, we had raised just under $2,000. I'm supposed to call Mark Mettille of the Morris Warriors because they are going to help, too. There's a lot of people pulling together right now."

That fact is something Peterson is not surprised to hear.

"He's a Morris kid. In Chicago I'm sure this kind of thing happens all the time," he said. "Morris is such a tight-knit town."`

"It goes to show how many that truly care," Ellison said. "It's amazing how the community has come together."

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