Robertson 'was a gentle soul'

Robertson 'was a gentle soul'

RANTOUL — Individuals in Rantoul and beyond are grieving after the sudden death of Donnell Robertson.

The 17-year-old died over the weekend, less than a month after he completed his most recent high school track and field season at Rantoul. Robertson also played football.

"My initial reaction was, 'There's just no way,'" Rantoul boys' track coach Mitch Wilson said on Monday afternoon. "I just started crying uncontrollably because he was such a great young man."

Robertson's death has left the Rantoul community stunned, according to Eagles football coach Tom Hess.

"I was just deeply saddened and in a state of shock and disbelief," Hess said. "He just had a smile that was beautiful. He could change the attitude of the entire team at any point."

Robertson was a hurdler, sprinter and thrower in track and field, as well as a running back and linebacker on the gridiron.

He served as an alternate for the Eagles' state-qualifying 400-meter relay last month and rushed for 299 yards and two touchdowns during Rantoul's 2017 football campaign.

"I think everybody's just asking why. Why did this happen? Why him?" Wilson said. "He was a gentle soul. ... Donnell's circle was big. He had a lot of people on his side, and I just wish he would've reached out to somebody."

Hess said he hopes his football program can use their teammate's sudden passing as a means of improvement beyond the realm of sports.

"I think we take this tragedy and take a moment to self-reflect," Hess said, "and use it as motivation to become our own best selves and realize life is short and we don't want to waste a day."

A candlelight vigil was held Monday night at Robertson's home. Additional information about services was not immediately available.