By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 10/19/12
Eric Coombs has many emotions when he speaks about his son, Edward Taylor Coombs. They include great sadness, but also tremendous pride and inspiration.
“Whenever you talked to his high school, college or club coaches they would tell you he was the heartbeat of their team,” said Coombs. “Edward loved people and people loved him.”
Eddie Coombs’ life may have ended on a tragic August morning, in 2011, when he and former Hatboro-Horsham lacrosse teammate Robert Nagle died in a one-car accident in Horsham Township. But the legacy of Eddie Coombs continues to grow stronger than ever.
On Saturday and Sunday, Hatboro-Horsham will be the site of the inaugural Edward Taylor Coombs Memorial Tournament. The event will feature 17 men’s and women’s college teams from Divisions I, II and II. Each squad will play twice and funds will benefit the Edward Taylor Coombs Foundation as well as doctors fighting brain trauma at Abington Memorial Hospital.
The huge tourney field was quite an ambitious endeavor for Eric Coombs, who admits he took on perhaps a larger challenge than he should have. But his inspiration comes from Eddie.
“Of course we want to raise money for the (Edward Taylor Coombs) Foundation,” Coombs said. “But this is not about making money.
“It’s about his love of the sport and love of the brotherhood of the lacrosse community. That’s really the driving force behind it. It’s a memorial to further his name in the lacrosse community.”
Eddie Coombs was known for his wide-grinned personality on and off the field, a true leader who helped the Hatters to a state playoff berth in 2010 and made an immediate impact as a freshman at Marist College.
But aside from being a standout player, Coombs was a leader in the lacrosse community, and as his father points out, for African-Americans just entering the lacrosse community.
“Edward was always so proud to be a part of the lacrosse community, especially being one of the only African-American (players) in our area ,” said Eric Coombs. “he always said he was so fortunate to be playing the game.
“And Edward was doing things in the inner city to get African Americans involved in lacrosse. He would give up his time and work with a couple schools.
“He knew they couldn’t take the equipment home so he would say, ‘Take a broom stick at home and go with it side to side or put it down and start scopping it. That way when you get on the field you can work on scooping up a groundball.’
“Those are the things that separated him from a lot of other kids. Even in Poughkeepsie (where Marist is located), he became the face of the team. It’s predominantly black there and they told him, ‘We want you to get to work with the youth programs.’”
It was Marist and coach and St. Joseph’s University grad Keegan Wilkinson, along with Ursinus College coach Jamie Steele who convinced Coombs to create the tournament shortly after Eddie passed away. They have been leaders for Division I-II (Saturday) and Division III days (Sunday).
“They said, why don’t we do a memorial for Edwards they both jumped on board in August of a year ago,” said Coombs.
The Marist women’s program also helped out by pushing for a women’s section of the tourney. They recruited La Salle and Wagner. Rebel Elite, where Coombs played club lacrosse, also has been a driving force behind the Foundation.
“I think it all really came together,” said Coombs. “We are very fortunate to have a community and a high school team that cares. Then the girls got involved. That was great because girls don’t always get the publicity.”
Coombs said that people still talk about Eddie Coombs and how he led.
“Any coach told you that Edward was the hardest worker at practice and the hardest worker in the games,” he said. “he would be the one to dive for a loose ball or run so hard to be closest to the ball out of bounds.
“He spent the entire summer after his freshman year at Marist working on his left because coach (Wilkinson) told him he needed to make them respect his left hand.
“So that summer he never touched the ball with his right hand. He always wanted to get better.
“This is a way for us to remember what Edward lived for – he lived to be a diference maker. I am trying to heal as a father – I lost my heartbeat, my joy.”
Take solace Mr. Coombs – Eddie’s heart still beats, for all of us.