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“He had a zest for life”: Hundreds remember star Chapin High athlete killed in rollover crash

Hundreds of friends, teammates and loved ones in the Chapin High School gymnasium reflected, smiled and choked back tears while remembering star athlete Cliff Tucker, who died last week in a rollover crash.

“Someone like Cliff comes along once in a lifetime if you’re a coach, if you’re lucky,” said his former coach, Rene Hernandez.

Tucker, 29, and two others died in the rollover crash on Interstate 10, 180 miles southeast of El Paso last week. His 29-year-old girlfriend and 3-year-old daughter, Genesis and Andrea Soto, were critically injured. The tread on one of the van’s tires separated before the driver lost control, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety investigators on the scene.

The impact of the deadly crash immediately shocked the Chapin High School and northeast communities. On Sunday evening, early everyone spoke of his infectious smile and love for those around him.

“He didn’t make his teammates better players,” Hernandez said, adding, “he made them better people.”

The school will retire his jersey, which players say he wore proudly, representing Chapin High School.

“Nobody will wear #21 like Cliff Tucker did,” said another coach, Rodney Lewis.

His former Richardson Middle School Coach, John Gardea gave Tucker’s son, Dallas, the game ball from the 2003 championship against Hornedo Middle School.

“Cliff brought hope to the team,” Gardea said.

Hundreds braced heavy rains and winds to make it to his memorial. Hernandez joked that from Heaven, Tucker might have influenced the inclement weather to persuade the crowd to simply stay home and watch game two of the NBA finals.

“‘You’re all crazy, he would have said,” Hernandez told the crowd. “I would tell him, ‘Cliff, you’re worth it.'”

One former teammate joked about Tucker’s love for Air Jordan shoes, awarding Dallas with money from his former teammates to buy a brand new pair.

“You’re going to have to get the nicest pair of Jordans to represent your pops, you know what I’m saying?” the teammate said.

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