The Semiahmoo Peninsula football community is mourning the loss of a former coach, after Bryan James died suddenly last weekend after apparent heart complications.
James, 32, collapsed Friday evening while at a Christmas party in downtown Vancouver.
James was one of Earl Marrriott Secondary’s founding football coaches – he was the school’s first Grade 8 team coach – and prior to that, was a longtime coach with the White Rock-South Surrey Titans.
“Way too young, just way, way too young,” said Brian Hillhouse, a former EMS football president who helped start the football program in 2005.
A moment of silence was held for James at the Mariners’ annual, end-of-season football banquet Monday night.
“It was nice we were able to honour him, and able to talk about him as a group,” said EMS head coach Michael Mackay-Dunn said.
James coached at EMS for the first three seasons – the program’s current Grade 12s were on James’ last Grade 8 team.
“Bryan was just bigger than life,” said Mackay-Dunn.
“Boisterous, brash, funny – he was all of that. He was just a big kid who oozed confidence.”
As evidence, Mackay-Dunn pointed to the year James, who worked as an associate investment advisor with National Bank Financial in Vancouver, volunteered to coach Earl Marriott’s basketball team.
“We all thought it was pretty funny,” he said.
“He didn’t have a clue what he was doing. He didn’t know anything about basketball, but he knew he’d be able to do it, and would figure it out – that was just Bryan.”
Mackay-Dunn said the mood was understandably somber among the coaches and players who knew James.
“I feel for his family, for his friends, but I still just can’t believe it,” he said. “I mean, 30-, 31-years-old? It’s just… I can’t believe it.”
James is survived by his parents, Ron and Diane, sister Lyndsay and brothers Jordan and Andrew.
A service is planned for Saturday, at Peace Portal Alliance Church in South Surrey (15128 27B Ave.) at 2 p.m.
A trust fund, the Bryan James Foundation, has been set up in James’ name to provide funds for youth to participate in sports. Donations can be made at Saturday’s service.