There really are no words to describe the feelings I had when watching Nick Schuyler detail the final moments he spent with his best friends after their boat capsized off the coast of Florida back in February. HBO Real Sports profiled Schuyler, the lone man to survive the tragedy that took the lives of three men.
Among the three who never returned from the trip was Marquis Cooper, a special teams contributor who was a mid-season signing of the Oakland Raiders in 2008. Cooper is being honored by the Raiders this year as each member of the Silver and Black proudly wears a #95 decal on their helmet in his memory.
Schuyler’s account of the last time he ever saw Cooper is haunting and saddening.
Throughout the piece, Schuyler discusses in detail the last time he saw Cooper, Corey Smith and his best friend Will Bleakley. He also describes his rescue and the guilt which he suffers each night, always pondering why he was the lone survivor.
Mistakes were made and perhaps this tragedy could have been avoided. During the night, the cold conditions and stormy weather took their toll on the men who fought bravely to survive. By the time morning came, only Schuyler and Bleakley were still clinging to the capsized vessel. Eventually it would be Schuyler alone who would remain atop the boat.
Today, Schuyler lives with a heavy heart. On occasion he will baby sit Cooper’s young daughter, helping to console a family that is now fatherless.
Schuyler’s survival in the Gulf of Mexico is truly amazing but he shuns being called a hero. He even goes as far to say, “If I’m a hero then I’d have one of them here with me now.”
Hopefully, none of us will ever have to live with the emotions that Schuyler deals with on a nightly basis. Truthfully, he has nothing to feel sorry for. He did all he could to help his friends and was forced to make some unbearably tough decisions.
Keep Schuyler and the families of the men who never returned home in your thoughts. Schuyler might not think he’s a hero but his bravery is the kind of stuff which heroes are made of. By surviving, he has become a living testament of the men who never made it back.