Football coach mourns death of teen player pulled from Lake Washington: ‘He fought his heart out’

KENMORE, Wash. -- A 14-year-old boy pulled from Seattle's Lake Washington on Memorial Day passed away Tuesday at Harborview Medical Center.

Ryan Payne was in 8th grade and went to Kenmore Middle School. His football coach is having a hard time believing Ryan lost this fight, as he was a force on the field who never gave up.

“I didn’t believe it was real, I still don’t.”

Jay Smith is still waiting for Ryan to do what he’s always done, “Let’s get up… just get up. We can get through this. We can beat this.”

Reality is starting to set in—Ryan won’t be suiting up with his football team next year.

"I see his name on my sheet for check-in," Smith said.

Coach Smith was tasked with handing out next year’s football equipment to the young men who would be Ryan’s teammates, just moments before Q13 News sat down with him.

“It’s so complicated in dealing with the loss of someone who meant so much to so many people, and Ryan definitely was one of those people.”

Coach Smith's memories of Ryan and the kind of player he was, poured out.

“He may have weighed 110 pounds, and literally I’m not kidding you, kids almost 3 times his size, he would tackle them, help ‘em up, no big deal, what’s next?”

While Ryan took others down, he was always there to lift his team up.

“You can hear him on the sidelines yelling 'Let's go guys—we’re Vikings, we can do this!'”

No obstacle was too big to tackle for Ryan.

"Whatever it took, he was gonna do it.”

And that is just one reason why Coach Smith is so baffled by this loss.

"As selfish as I get how that sounds—I would like somebody to explain it to me, because this kid had everything in front of him."

Coach Smith, Ryan's mother Heather and so many others had hope after he was taken to Harborview on Monday.

"His heart was beating on its own… they had just finished up some CT scans… things were looking great. He fought his heart out, which doesn't surprise me... He didn’t give up. Like even when they got to the hospital, overnight, I saw the laundry list of stuff, the blood, platelets, all the stuff that they did to help him—he wanted to be here.”

So now, Coach Smith has to find a way to lead his team, without Ryan.

“I’m still waiting for this kid to turn the corner over here to tell me, no it’s fine coach, I got it I’m ready to get my helmet.”

He says they are playing this season for Ryan.

"Absolutely, I don't see how we could not."

Coach Smith tells Q13 News that members of the junior football league Ryan played for will retire his number-- #22 will no longer be in circulation.

Ryan’s mother Heather tells Q13 News that an autopsy will be done Wednesday to figure out exactly what happened at Lake Washington on Memorial Day.

Family and friends have setup a GoFundMe page to help with funeral costs.

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