David L. Robinson, the McLean High School football player who died Monday after the team's first workout of the season, was buried yesterday, surrounded by an anguished crowd that included more than 400 friends, family members, teammates and Jesse L. Jackson.
Robinson, 16, a 6-foot-2 tackle on McLean's Highlanders team, collapsed on a school field Monday and died an hour later of an enlarged heart, a condition generally developed at birth, authorities said.
Yesterday mourners packed Second Baptist Church in Falls Church as Robinson was described as obedient and respectful, and a son who loved playing football and watching auto racing with his family. About half of those attending were McLean students, most of them crying openly and hugging each other.
Jackson said he had talked to Robinson's parents this week "to let them know that the impact of David's life and character has reached far beyond this place."
Jackson told the racially mixed crowd that David, a popular black student in a predominantly white school, had helped overcome race and class divisions. "Few people in America today can pull this combination of people together, black and white, rich and poor, young and old."
Jackson said that hundreds of children in the District have been killed or injured since January in drug-related violence and other crimes. He said that in Robinson's case, sometimes God sifts through the weeds and takes a rose.
"When God plucks out a rose, it gets everybody's attention," Jackson said. "David is one of those roses. He's not just a statistic."
Students were scheduled to make remarks after Jackson. However, when Jackson finished his talk, none of them approached the microphone at the front of the church.
A family member then read tributes to the fallen athlete, describing him as "a big old teddy bear" and "a gentle giant" who will be missed.
Reiterating the racial harmony theme, the Rev. Chester Pearson, of Mount Nebo Baptist Church in Marshall, Va., said the outpouring of grief by Robinson's friends reminded him of speeches by slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
"Some day we'll see little black children and little white children and Jews and gentiles all come together," Pearson said. "Look what David has done. How did David do this? He did it in his death."
Eight students carried Robinson's casket to the modest gravesite behind the church next to a cornfield. Others ringed the family, clutching large floral bouquets.
Jackson held the hands of Robinson's parents, David and Susie Marsh, then several yards from the grieving couple talked to reporters in front of a television camera, and shooed away mourners wanting his autograph.
Jackson said he was touched by news of Robinson's death because he and two of his sons have played football. He said he talked to Robinson's parents earlier this week to offer his condolences, and they asked him to attend the funeral. "I thought it was the right thing to do," Jackson said.
Karl Buckwalter, McLean High's coach, said this week that Robinson's teammates were responding well to their friend's death. "If they were down, they hid it very well," Buckwalter said. "They picked themselves up. They've dedicated the season to David."
Ernie Solar, a junior defensive back, said that his parents told him to try to "stay positive" concerning Robinson's death.
"When I returned to practice, it was hard for me to concentrate because I kept thinking about it and asking why," Solar said. "But I knew he would tell me to think about what you are doing and stop messing up. I'm surely going to miss him."
Staff writer Donald Huff contributed to this report.