Legacy of Cleveland high school football player will live on in special scholarship

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CLEVELAND -- A very special honor is being named for a local high school football player, who lived for others and died after a random shooting.

Michael Chappman was the kind of teenager who went out of his way to make people smile.

The 17-year-old John Hay High School quarterback was looking forward to his senior season when he was shot and paralyzed last summer in a drive-by shooting on Cleveland’s east side.

Despite his injuries, Michael remained positive and told FOX 8 News reporter Suzanne Stratford, “I’m not worried about myself; I know I’m going to walk again.”

However, on July 23, while Michael was at a rehabilitation center, he suddenly passed away.

Doctors told his mother, Neicey Bryant, that a bullet which was still lodged inside his body had traveled and caused internal damage.

Neicey had just returned Michael to his room, after taking him in his wheelchair outside for fresh air.

“And we sat on the patio and talked and he was telling me how much he loved me and his sisters,” said Neicey, with tears streaming down her cheeks, “That was the last time I got to see my son alive.”

The months that followed were “dark and painful” says Neicey, but then out of the blue she was contacted by two students from Case Western Reserve University.

It was just before Thanksgiving.

Arik Stewart and Johnathan Hicks saw Michael’s story online and watched his interview on FOX 8 News.

The young men were so touched by his spirit and the tragedy of his death, they decided to do something for his family.

“It was tough hearing about it, especially knowing he was recovering and it was so unexpected,” said Hicks. “It hurt my heart he had to go like that for something that had nothing to do with him.”

Hicks is vice president of the African American Society at Case and Stewart is president.

Together, they developed a plan and got a scholarship named after Michael Chappman.

A formal announcement will be made Saturday night at the annual and historic Ebony Ball on campus.

“We wanted something that would be able to keep his memory going on and let others learn and benefit from his memory,” said Stewart.

The announcement immediately lifted Neicey’s spirits, knowing Michael's name and legacy will live on. “It was mind blowing,” said Neicey. “Now this scholarship can help someone else because he was always the person helping someone.”

The scholarship will be awarded to a student in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

Neicey is extremely grateful, but says she won’t truly be at peace until the senseless gun violence stops, and her son's killer is brought to justice.

No one has been arrested in the fatal shooting.

Anyone with information is asked to call Cleveland police.

Continuing coverage.

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