Middleton’s Hezekiah B. Walters remembered for devotion to church, academics and athletics

The 14-year-old, who recently collapsed and died during football conditioning, was part of the Men of Vision from an early age. “Hezekiah was exceptional,” the organization’s co-founder says.
Members of Tampa's Men of Vision line up outside of Tampa's Bible Based Fellowship church after the funeral for Hezekiah B. Walters Saturday, June 22, 2019 in Temple Terrace. Wearing red ties, bowties and ribbons, the young men as well as many other family members and friends wore red, Walters' favorite color, in his honor. [ANGELIQUE HERRING   |   Times]
Members of Tampa's Men of Vision line up outside of Tampa's Bible Based Fellowship church after the funeral for Hezekiah B. Walters Saturday, June 22, 2019 in Temple Terrace. Wearing red ties, bowties and ribbons, the young men as well as many other family members and friends wore red, Walters' favorite color, in his honor. [ANGELIQUE HERRING | Times]
Published June 22

TEMPLE TERRACE — Felix Walters rushed to the hospital after hearing the news. His son was not breathing.

Hezekiah B. Walters, 14, collapsed on the Middleton High football field during conditioning drills June 11. The incoming freshman was in cardiac arrest.

The only thing Felix could see in the emergency room was his son’s feet. He was told the nurses would report on any progress.

“They never came back,” Felix said during Saturday’s eulogy.

More than 200 filled Bible-Based Fellowship Church of Temple Terrace for Hezekiah’s funeral. Earl Mason Sr., the pastor at the church, made clear in his opening remarks that this was not a day to be consumed with sorrow.

“There might be a few tears shed, but this is the Lord’s doing,” said Mason Sr., also Hezekiah’s grandfather. “Ain’t nobody mad but the Devil.”

Hezekiah B. Walters, 14, was a member of Men of Vision, a local non-profit for teens. He collapsed while participating in football conditioning drills at Middleton High School in Tampa on Wednesday and later died. His death is now being investigated. [Courtesy of Men of Vision]
Hezekiah B. Walters, 14, was a member of Men of Vision, a local non-profit for teens. He collapsed while participating in football conditioning drills at Middleton High School in Tampa on Wednesday and later died. His death is now being investigated. [Courtesy of Men of Vision]

People clapped along to the upbeat songs by the choir. They smiled as family and friends told stories about Hezekiah, including ESPN announcer Tiffany Greene, a Tampa native who grew up with the Walters family.

They talked about Hezekiah’s love of music, his devotion to church, academics and athletics. They spoke glowingly of his willingness to help others.

Hezekiah was a member of Men of Vision, a 175-member organization of middle and high school students, many from at-risk neighborhoods, who strive to help the community, achieve academically and lead productive lives.

Ross Anderson, a co-founder of the organization, said Hezekiah started in the fifth grade.

“We don’t really have elementary school students, but Hezekiah was exceptional,” Anderson said.

[ PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Tampa teen who collapsed during conditioning drills on football field had body temperature of 102, report says ]

Choking back tears, Anderson spent time describing Hezekiah, using words such as determined and diligent and debonnaire. Anderson said his organization and the Walters family partnered with the Hillsborough Education Foundation on a two-year prepaid scholarship in Hezekiah’s honor.

A slideshow of photos from Hezekiah’s childhood flashed across a screen while Mason delivered a sermon. He spoke of his grandson’s stubbornness, his ability to lead and his vision.

“Hezekiah was always planning,” Mason said. “This was part of his plan — to be with God.”

Felix Walters, a pastor at El-Shaddai Baptist Church, concluded the service.

After his son was pronounced dead, Felix still searched for answers, He went to the football field hours later, asking God why this would happen.

Near midfield, Felix spotted a green water bottle and leftover items used to revitalize Hezekiah.

“At that point, I heard a voice,” Felix said. “It was God. He did this. He took my son.”

As the congregation headed out the doors, they stood along the sidewalk — Middleton coaches, Men of Vision members, family and friends. They locked arms as the pallbearers brought out Hezekiah’s casket. They cried. They hugged.

Then they laid Hezekiah to rest.

Contact Bob Putnam at bputnam@tampabay.com. Follow @BobbyHomeTeam.

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