ROSEVILLE, Minn. (WCCO) — Friends and former teammates of Roseville area high school football standout Sean Matti gathered to celebrate his life.
Matti, who went on to play Big Ten football at Purdue University after high school, went missing a week ago Sunday while swimming with friends on Lake Freeman near Lafayette, Ind. His body was found two days later about 20 yards from shore.
Preliminary autopsy results indicate Matti died of an accidental drowning.
“It’s an unfortunate family reunion,” said former teammate Mike von Fange.
Wearing their old jerseys, members of Roseville area high school’s 2006-2007 football team gathered to remember the player who led them to state. In small groups, they told stories about Matti.
“Sean played everywhere. He played running back, full back, special teams, punter, kicker, defense, you name it. He was our rock,” said former teammate and best friend Nick Vignalo. “He always would make us laugh.”
On the field he was a leader, off the field he was looked up to by all he met.
“I never had an older brother and he seriously was that brother to me. He was a big guy and he would always be there for you,” Vignalo said.
More than 500 people came to Roseville stadium to be there for Matti’s family. It was their private time to mourn, to share memories of a life cut short — a life full of laughter, a life full of loving others.
Many in the crowd still had not come to terms with what happened.
“Right when I heard someone talking about it before they even got off the phone I called him and a deputy from Indiana kind of told me what happened,” said Vignalo.
Friends also collected donations to help the family with burial expenses and the cost to transport Matti’s body back from Indiana to Roseville for burial.
His friends in Minnesota say he will be remembered for being much more than an athlete.
“It’s very important to know that football, yes, was a big part of his life, but it was nothing compared to his character and his personality,” said von Fange.