SEFFNER — Jaime Ramirez Jr. was going through the usual assortment of drills when he saw his parents standing on the sideline.
"I thought they were there to watch practice," the Armwood High junior offensive lineman said.
As Ramirez drew closer, he knew something was wrong. Shirlana and Jaime Ramirez, both sobbing, told their son that his older sister, Deanna, was dead.
Deanna gave birth to a boy July 30. Soon after, she developed a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in her left leg. The blood clot eventually traveled to her lungs. She died Aug. 22 after collapsing in front of the doors of Brandon Regional Hospital. She was 23.
Ramirez broke down on the field once he found out.
"I was in shock," he said. "I couldn't believe what had happened to my big sister."
Deanna was more than just a big sister. She drove Ramirez to practices, games, wherever he needed to be. When their mother had back surgery in May, Deanna took care of the family.
"We were very close," Ramirez said. "She was like a second mother. She always supported me and wanted me to do the right thing in life. She was always right by my side. It was tough to go through and still is tough knowing she isn't here anymore and is with God in perfect hands."
At games, Ramirez could always see Deanna cheering in the stands. They often posed for pictures, including one that was taken after last year's Plant game.
Deanna, who graduated from Armwood in 2013, was an athlete, too. She was a flag dancer, a basketball player and a shot putter.
Hawks football coach Evan Davis coached Deanna in track.
"She always had a smile on her face," Davis said. "She was always positive and supportive of others and was constantly pushing everyone to do better."
Davis watched as Ramirez had to bare his heartache on the field. It was an emotional moment, usually experienced in solitude. Teammates and coaches wrapped their arms around Ramirez in consolation.
"There's not a book on how to act or react to something like this," Davis said. "There was a lot of grief, and we just all tried to be very supportive."
The week Deanna died, the Hawks were preparing to face Tampa Bay Tech in the season opener. The decision to play was up to Ramirez.
"It was very tough knowing she will not be there to watch me play," Ramirez said. "I wanted to play against Tampa Bay Tech because Dee would've wanted me to play that night, and I know she was very proud."
Armwood lost the opener to the Titans, but Ramirez's presence helped draw the team closer.
"The team was impacted by what happened, but I don't think that had an affect on how we played," Davis said. "I think it allowed us to put everything in perspective. Yeah, it was a tough loss and it hurt, but it's nowhere near the pain of having a teammate that's so close to us lose a family member."
The Hawks had a bye this past week. Ramirez used the time to plan the funeral, held Sept. 1. Several teammates attended. Davis was a pallbearer.
The football field became a refuge for the grieving Ramirez. This week, Armwood has another tough game against rival Plant.
Ramirez plans to say a prayer for Deanna before the game. He also is going to tape his wrists, writing "R.I.P BIG DEE and 8/22/18" on them.
And he plans to bring the photo he took with his sister after last year's Plant game.
"Every snap I play is for Deanna," Ramirez said. "She knows that and is cheering for us every Friday night."
Contact Bob Putnam at [email protected] Follow @BobbyHomeTeam.