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Suicide suspected in death of Burbank High football player

March 8, 2012 |  8:15 am

Grief counselors are at Burbank High School, helping students cope with the unexpected death of a popular football player who died unexpectedly at his home in Shadow Hills Tuesday night.

Coroner's officials said it was reported to them as a suicide, but the autopsy is pending to determine the official cause of death for Matthew Smyser, 17.

Burbank Unified officials were notified of the death Wednesday morning by the Los Angeles Mayor's Crisis Response Team, Supt. Stan Carrizosa said. The district's own response team, including grief counselors, were immediately deployed to the school, he told the Burbank Leader.

Burbank High School football Coach Hector Valencia said Matthew, who played wide receiver and linebacker on the varsity squad, was "very popular on campus."

"He was very friendly and was polite with a great deal of character. He also had a lot of integrity," Valencia said of the high school junior. "He was very positive and he was a kid that you could trust."

In a message posted on the school's website, Principal Hani Youssef said officials were "addressing the thoughts, feelings and general well-being of our students and staff while they are in school."

District officials have not communicated directly with the student's parents, Carrizosa said, but they were aware Matthew's mother had been diagnosed with cancer last year. The student does not have any siblings enrolled in the district, Carrizosa added.

The situation has been a shock and a tragedy for the entire school community, officials said.

"We won't remember him so much for what he did on the football field but what he did as a person," Valencia said. "We want to remember all the good things about him. He was a truly good kid."

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-- Megan O'Neil and Jeff Tully, Times Community News

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