John Bloomfield, the spirited and beloved Sacramento State defensive end known for his engaging grin, pregame speeches and shock of hair jetting out of the back of his helmet as he chased down quarterbacks, has died after nearly a month in a coma.
The 23-year old senior from Grant High School and Sierra College entered Mercy Hospital in Sacramento in Sept. 19 to treat a deteriorating lung. It collapsed after Sac State's season opener on Aug. 30 at New Mexico State. The high altitude in Las Cruces, N.M. affected his breathing, family members said. Family, teammates and Bloomfield himself were not aware of the severity of his respiratory condition, certainly not by the way he played with his passion.
At Mercy, one surgery led to another then a third, and Bloomfield lapsed into a coma. Stella Bloomfield said the decision to take her son off life support was the most painful of her life, adding recently, "God's waiting for him now. We know it's time to let him go."
Bloomfield's hospital room the last month included a stream of well wishers. Family members who appreciated his energy from his youth in Palo Alto. Teammates from his high school, Sierra College and Sac State days. Coaches such as Mike Alberghini of Grant, those from Sierra College and Marshall Sperbeck from Sac State. Hornets players said they dedicated this season to Bloomfield.
Bloomfield's hospital bed included a Sac State football banner. Family members surrounded his bed to offer words, music and song.
Those who knew Bloomfield best said he was driven to achieve as a player and student, particularly after academic woes prevented him from competing in sports until his senior season. He was a special teams ace and linebacker for Grant's 2006 championship team, went on to start two seasons at Sierra College as what coach Jeff Tisdel deemed, "the heart and soul of our team."
Stella Bloomfield said her son cherished his Grant championship ring. She said he will be buried with it.
Sperbeck said he will remember Bloomfield's academic ambition. It was common to see Bloomfield in study hall early every morning. He was on track to graduate with a degree in ethnic studies. His dream was to be a preacher.
I caught up to Bloomfield after a Sierra practice two years ago. He said he was proud to be the first in his family to attend college, of his Polynesian heritage and family support, of overcoming a childhood of poverty and the challenges growing up in East Palo Alto, where he said "there was trouble on every corner waiting to take you in." He spoke about an older brother who committed "the worst kind" of crimes and is serving a life sentence in prison.
"I've been a role model to my younger siblings: Do good things, the right thing, and go to school," Bloomfield said.
Said Sperbeck recently, "He's unlike any kid I've ever coached. The drive, commitment, unselfishness, how he works with others, and he's a captain and a role model to all our guys."
Funeral services are pending. We will have more in Tuesday's Bee after meeting with players and coaches.
Sac State quarterback Garrett Safron tweeted, "Rest in paradise JB! Lost such a great individual. Now one of my guardian angels watching above! You will never be forgotten. Never."
And this tweet from Sierra College teammate Michael Elliott, "RIP to my brother and teammate JB. John Bloomfield is the best man I've ever known. Kind, humble, intelligent, and most of all a giver..."
And Sac State in a statement released by the university today:
"John Bloomfield's passing has brought a profound sadness to Sacramento State," said President Alexander Gonzalez. "He was a tremendous representative of our University and a beloved member of the Hornet football team. My thoughts are with his family, friends, teammates and fellow students."
Director of Athletics Terry Wanless said of John, "We have lost a member of our family. John was a young man who brightened the lives of all those he touched. He was a great example of someone who took on the challenges of life and found a way to make it better."
Sperbeck added, "My thoughts and prayers are with John's family. Our football team is saddened by the loss of one of our leaders. John was an outstanding person, player and teammate who will leave a lasting impression on all of us."
- Joe Davidson
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