ASHDOWN, Ark. (KTAL/KMSS) – The loss of a talented student-athlete in an ATV accident over spring break has inspired a movement and now the establishment of a foundation in his name in hopes that his spirit will continue to be an inspiration.
Cedrick “CJ” Harris Jr. was 14 when he suffered a concussion following the ATV accident in his hometown of Ashdown, Arkansas over spring break. He died after several days in the hospital.
Harris was an honor student, four-sport athlete, All-American, and member of the prestigious USA Baseball Organization. An outpouring of support spanning from the local community all the way to the NBA has shown just how much of a mark he made in his short 14 years of life.
The standout student-athlete played baseball, football, basketball, and ran track. As an eighth-grader, CJ already had scholarships to play baseball and football for Louisiana State University where his mother and father both played. Coaches, teammates, and professional athletes have been paying tribute to the young talent, sharing videos, wearing the number 24, and posting on social media with the hashtag #BeLikeCJ.
“I know CJ loved the NBA and was not only an incredible athlete but an extremely kind young man. I’m here to support the hashtag “Be Like CJ” movement. And join his family and friends in honoring his legacy,” said sports analyst and former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal.
“On behalf of all the players in the NBA, We send our thoughts and prayers to CJ’s family and loved ones. Kind-hearted, smart, respectful, just a few of the qualities that made CJ such a special young man,” said Chris Paul, who currently plays in the NBA for the Phoenix Suns.
Closer to home, CJ’s family and friends continue to marvel at his talent and spirit as they mourn his loss as a friend, son, brother, and athlete.
“He was such a physically fit kid,” said CJ’s aunt, Mireille Ferdinand-Hercule.
“He was a loving and caring brother. He would do anything for me and I would do anything for him,” said CJ’s older brother, Dontay Harris.
“He’s three years younger than me and I even looked up to him,” said family friend Jaxson Jester. “I mean that’s how good he always was.”
“He just cared for everybody. He didn’t let nobody feel down about themselves,” said a long-time teammate, Josh Veliz.
“He’s put a stamp on my life and all the assistant coaches’ life. By just listening he was a good listener,” said CJ’s Ashdown baseball and football Coach, Charlie Cross.
It was CJ’s dream to carry on the family legacy at LSU. To honor that, the school has a display of two jerseys with the number 24 on them. One for baseball and the other for football. CJ’s dad, Cedrick Harris Sr., also wore baseball jersey number 24.
“At LSU we’re a family. When something happens, your family will always be there for you. We want you to know that CJ will forever be a part of the LSU family,” said LSU Head Football Coach Ed Orgeron.
CJ’s family says even as an outperforming athlete, he remained humble. He wanted all his attention to be redirected towards positive things. To honor his life, his family started a foundation and movement, #BeLikeCJ.
“Sticking up for the kids who are being bullied. Include those kids who are not being included. Whether it be sitting at the table at lunch by themselves. Whether it be a kid who doesn’t play sports. Just trying to get them involved in sports and just making them feel welcome so they don’t feel like an outcast to society,” said Harris.
“Being ‘Just like CJ’ just represents embracing who you are,” said CJ’s aunt, Nadege Cherubia-Williams.
Harris says the Be Like CJ foundation will provide scholarships, toy, and school supply drives, and meals for the homeless.
“That fourteen years was very impactful. He touched a lot of people. In my opinion, as a father, I’m more proud of those things than I am the athletic achievements. Even though I am very proud of what he achieved on the field, off the field he trumped it,” said Harris.
Now, his family and friends want his spirit to live on beyond his 14 years on earth.
“He was here as an angel to complete the assignment of inspiring his peers,” said Ferdinand- Hercule.