A popular Burbank High School football player took his own life at his home in Shadow Hills Tuesday night, shocking his teammates and student body.
The student was identified by Los Angeles County coroner’s officials as 17-year-old Matthew Smyser. Officials on Thursday confirmed the cause of death as suicide following an autopsy.
Burbank Unified officials were notified of the death Wednesday morning by the Los Angeles Mayor’s Crisis Response Team, Supt. Stan Carrizosa said. The district’s own response team, including grief counselors, was immediately deployed to the school, he added.
Burbank High School football coach Hector Valencia said Matthew, who played wide receiver and linebacker on the varsity squad, was “very popular on campus.”
“He was very friendly and was polite with a great deal of character. He also had a lot of integrity,” Valencia said of the high school junior. “He was very positive and he was a kid that you could trust.”
Matt had attended Village Christian School in eighth grade, and Alemany High School in ninth grade before enrolling at Burbank High School last year, according to district officials.
District counselors have already identified the student’s close friends and teachers and will work with them on an ongoing basis, Carrizosa said.
In a message posted on the school’s website, Principal Hani Youssef said officials were “addressing the thoughts, feelings and general well-being of our students and staff while they are in school.”
In addition, grief counselors were available throughout the day Wednesday.
“We had social and emotional support throughout the day,” Carrizosa said. “The kids were able to come in and talk and listen, there were some opportunities to write and express their feelings, and really to have a day to reflect and process what happened.”
District officials have not communicated directly with the student’s parents, Carrizosa said, but they were aware his mother had been diagnosed with cancer last year. The student does not have any siblings enrolled in the district, Carrizosa added.
The situation has been a shock and a tragedy for the entire school community, officials said.
“We won’t remember him so much for what he did on the football field but what he did as a person,” Valencia said. “We want to remember all the good things about him. He was a truly good kid.”
-- Megan O’Neil and Jeff Tully, Times Community News