TAYLOR -- A school district in Lackawanna County is mourning the loss of a former student and stand-out football player.
Jim Pietrowski, who graduated from Riverside High School in 2008, died suddenly Tuesday after collapsing at a school in North Carolina at the age of 27.
At the Vikings home field in Taylor, his former coaches are still reeling with shock and sadness.
“Just sad, just way too young. I feel bad for his family. He has a large family in Taylor,” said Vikings head coach Ben Thomas.
“I was just shocked. I mean he's a great kid. They have a tremendous family. His parents are good people. I just feel bad for his family at this particular time,” said former coach Eugene Gallagher.
Pietrowski, a Taylor native, died after collapsing at the Max Abbott Middle School in North Carolina Tuesday morning.
Pietrowski taught math and science there as a sixth-grade teacher for the last two years.
Pietrowski played for the Riverside Vikings until he graduated in 2007. Thomas said even after graduation, Pietrowski was a fixture on the field as a volunteer coach.
“Had a great relationship with the kids. He was a Riverside guy through and through. He always wanted nothing but good for the kids he was around, in everything he did, and Jim did a lot here,” said Thomas.
“Couldn't believe what actually happened. I had Jimmy three times in class actually, coached alongside of him when he came back. He was just a great guy,” said Riverside Athletic Director Dan Digwood.
Nick Dranchak, a 2013 graduate of Riverside, was one of the players Jim coached. He now volunteers with the team as well.
“A guy that had such an impact on your life, that's the reason you come back and coach. He's the reason you come back and you want to help these kids out,” said Dranchak. “You want to do the same thing he did for you. He had a big impact on my life, growing up a young kid, just helped me make better decisions, be a better person.”
The cause of Pietrowski's death is not yet known.
His school in North Carolina had grief counselors for his students on Wednesday.