BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - The death of Damon Janes is not an isolated incident.
Another football death made local headlines back in September 1965. And even 48 years later, classmates of John Rittling say it's a day they will never forget.
When Dan Georger heard about the tragedy in Brocton -- a 16 year old football player who died after an on-the-field injury -- it took him back to his senior year in high school.
"I really feel for those kids down there. I know what they're going through," Georger said.
Georger played guard for Cardinal Dougherty. In a September 1965 scrimmage at Nichols High School, his good friend and teammate John Rittling suffered a fatal tackle.
Rittling was hit twice. He went down with the second hit and said he couldn't feel his hands or his feet.
"And he never got up," Georger said.
John's brother Rich was in 8th grade when it happened.
"He was a close brother," Rich Rittling said.
At the time, Rittling's death sparked talk of ending the football program at Cardinal Dougherty and other schools. But Rich says his father never blamed the sport or other kids for John's death.
"I remember dad sending an editorial saying it shouldn't stop because of a freak accident. Football is part of life. I mean, you could walk down the street and have an accident," Rich said.
Rich and the other Rittling boys continued to play football.
Georger said his teammates dedicated the rest of the season to John. And more.
"We dedicated everything we did, we did in his memory. The whole North Buffalo community rallied around that. And I can see that's happening in Brocton also," Georger said.
Georger believes the Brocton kids will rally together, and appreciate what they have even more. And years down the road, it's something that will always be with them.
"John Rittling died 48 years ago. And to this day I never forget it. The sad thing about it, he missed a lot, really, if you think about life," Georger said.
News 4 has able to find at least two other documented cases where Western New York high school football players have died from football injuries -- A South Park High School player in 1926 and a Grover Cleveland player in 1933. A Westfield player, Brett Smith, died from a brain aneurysm during a game in 1975.
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