Allen McFarland, a youth football coach and New York City Department of Education employee, said the boy joined his team two years ago.
CNN  — 

A former coach of the 7-year-old who was found dead with two of his siblings on a Brooklyn beach Monday remembered him as a quiet, expressive boy who was always excited to play football.

Allen McFarland, a youth football coach and New York City Department of Education employee, said the boy joined his team two years ago and wore number 15.

“He was a very quiet kid but he was so expressive,” McFarland said, adding that the boy wore a giant smile while playing. “He was excited to tackle, to be tackled, excited to run the ball, excited to hit the person with the ball, he was just excited.”

His mother would often drop him off at practice then leave to run errands, according to the coach.

The coach had to break the news to the rest of the team on Monday and was met with tears from the kids, who were heartbroken to hear their teammate was gone.

“They understand life and death and they took it extremely hard,” McFarland said. The team had won a championship together in June 2021.

The coach said he was shaken by the news and made sure to spend even more time with his 6-year-old daughter. He picked her up from school when he was done with work and made sure she was at his side the whole day.

“I made sure to hug her a little tighter. I made sure she felt the love,” McFarland said. “It changes your perspective.”

Mother pulled boy out of football in March, coach says

McFarland said he remembered the boy’s mother pulling him out of football in March.

“You could see that there was a lot going on,” the coach said of the mother.

“She would say, ‘No, I know he likes it and we’re going to try to come back, but the schedule has just been busy,’” McFarland said. “It seemed like she was juggling a lot.”

The coach tried to bring the boy back in June, but the boy’s mother said he was going away to spend a few months with his father, McFarland said.

“She would say she wanted him to come back because she liked that he enjoyed it, but the action never happened,” McFarland said. “He never came back.”

The coach said taking the boy out of football “took away his support.” Sometimes, a coach who lived in the same building with the mom and her children would pick up the boy and walk him to practice, just a few blocks away, McFarland said. The team practiced three hours a day, four days a week, he added.

McFarland said the coaches tried to get him to come back.

“He just stopped coming. We keep an open-door policy for the most part, but he just stopped coming,” McFarland said. “And we would text and then it’s, I guess they switched the number, or something like that because I wasn’t really getting a response back.”

Hearing about the boy’s death

McFarland was at work on Monday morning when he got a call from another coach on his team telling him the news.

“‘They found him. They drowned him at the beach,’” McFarland says the other coach told him.

McFarland said he was in the cafeteria while breakfast was being served and remembers hearing all the noise in the room go silent.

“He was tearing up by the time he was talking to me,” McFarland said. “Then, I needed to get myself together. It was very eerie.”

McFarland said he scoured social media looking for any mention of the boy being found dead. When he didn’t find any pictures or memorials, he hoped it was a misunderstanding. But the hours ticked by and more parents called him and then he was contacted by reporters.

And when they said the boy’s name, his hope faded.

CNN’s Melanie Schuman contributed to this report.