Standing at 5-foot-7, Chris Wagner wasn’t physically imposing by any standard, let alone on a football field. But when he was given the ball as a tailback for New Trier, he made his presence known.
“He was one of the hardest working guys on the team. He had superior athletic talent, really fast, really strong,” said Mark Howard, head coach for New Trier’s sophomore football team. “We’re all just kind of shocked at the news.”
Wagner, 16, . A rising junior at New Trier, Wagner was expected to be a contributor on the Trevian football team in the fall.
Wagner leaves behind a legacy that consists of more than just his skills as an athlete.
“At the core he was just a great kid,” Howard said.
[Chris] was probably one of the nicest kids on the team,” said Danny Olaniyan, a soon-to-be junior at New Trier and Wagner's teammate last season. “Even if you don’t know him, you know about him for being a kid who’s always smiling, always a happy-go-lucky kid.”
Olaniyan and Wagner became good friends last year through football. Together, they were the two main running backs for New Trier’s sophomore football team.
Their relationship extended off the field as well. Olaniyan said they would often hang out at each other’s houses or go somewhere to grab a bite to eat.
“All we did was hangout and play football; that’s what he loved to do,” Olaniyan said.
New Trier students have already paid tribute to Wagner by putting up signs around the school. There are tentative plans to have a banner hung near a 7-Eleven by the Winnetka Campus for students to sign and write messages.
The football team is in the process of making shirts and hats to remember Wagner by as well.
“We just plan to do as much as we can to comfort his family and make sure he knows that we’re showing support,” Olaniyan said.
New Trier continues on with its summer training, as the regular season will start in a little more than a month.
But their former teammate will forever be in their hearts. Wagner’s presence will always be there.
“If you want to win, put Wagner in. That’s what [the team] is saying right now.”
A statement released from New Trier High School was sent out Saturday to the Trevian community. Counselors will be available this week at the Winnetka Campus to speak with students. A memorial service will be held on Thursday at 10 a.m. at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church at 1775 Grove St. in Glenview.