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Battle Creek Enquirer - Battle Creek, Mich.

When Isaac Anthony Loughrige passed away in late October, it left a giant hole in the collective hearts of the Marshall community. The 21-year-old died unexpectedly due to complications from the H1N1 flu virus, leaving a community in shock.

In life, the warm-hearted former multiple-sport standout at Marshall had dedicated himself to helping others.

In death, he is still helping others as Isaac's parents -- Shawn and Kathleen Loughrige -- decided to honor their son's giving nature by creating the 'I've Got Your Back' Foundation. "This foundation has been our way of finding something good out of a horrible, painful situation," Kathleen Loughrige said. "It's helping us heal, because we're able to do something meaningful for other people, because that's what Isaac always did. If he had money in his pocket, he was giving it away. He didn't think immediately of him. If he saw a need and he could meet it, he would, no questions asked. He wouldn't even think twice about it." That was even the case in his younger years. No story better represents Isaac's penchant for giving as the one involving his shoes when he was 14 years old. Shawn and Kathleen are co-founders of Crossroads Church and Ministries in Marshall, and one summer day the family was exiting the church when they saw what appeared to be a homeless man on the street. "All of us saw this man and he appeared to be homeless," Kathleen Loughrige said. "His clothes were kind of tattered, but really what was most telling was that his shoes were ducttaped to his feet. All of us saw that his shoes and none of us said anything. But Isaac saw it and he ran on ahead and stopped and asked the man, 'What size shoes?' He said 12, so he took his shoes right off his feet. He had nice tennis shoes, but we didn't even need to tell him."

Loughrige's death ended an athletic career that was seemingly just getting started for the former Central Michigan University football player. But his passion for sports and working with youth remain a part of his ongoing legacy.

The 'I've Got Your Back' Foundation was established in October 2009 with the goal to "Educate, impact and inspire hope to area youths in need by continuing some of the efforts that reflected Isaac's heart." The foundation drew upon Isaac's passion for helping and working with children to implement a football camp and a tutoring program, provide school supplies and athletic equipment for underprivileged kids and provide winter coats, gloves and boots for needy children.

The 'I've Got Your Back' Foundation also plans on creating a scholarship program for two college-bound seniors at both Marshall High School and Battle Creek Central High School. "That's what I love about the foundation," Kathleen Loughrige said. "We're able to give away money to people who need it in Isaac's name. To us, the foundation is huge, because it's something meaningful."

Isaac was dedicated in everything he did. He played nearly every sport when he was at Marshall, while also taking up an interest in hunting, fishing and motocross. But football was his biggest passion. Former Marshall head football coach Rich Hulkow remembers Isaac as an extremely passionate competitor on the gridiron, and as a leader and a role model off the field. "Like all small communities, we have our Friday night heroes," Hulkow said. "He definitely fit the category in that. It was such a shock to everybody's system when he passed. I think I had them say it like three times. He set a real good example for the kids in our community not only for what you should be like as an athlete but also as a person."

Isaac certainly had a big impact on the kids who looked up to him the most. He would tutor children in Olivet and Battle Creek while additionally helping them with their school fundraisers.

A star player and captain of the football team, he would invite some of his Marshall teammates --like Mike VanDerMeulen and Ryan Sharpley -- to come over to his church to work out with underprivileged kids from Marshall, Albion and Battle Creek. "He did a lot of weight lifting and training with kids who didn't have that equipment available," Shawn Loughrige said. "Him and I worked with the kids and he was always a big part of it... it was just his nature. The kids looked up to him. That's what we began to realize from people's stories. All his friends always knew Isaac would have their back. He just always covered them."

As a freshman at Central Michigan University, he redshirted on the Chippewas football team. Going against players such as current San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Joe Staley in practice every day, the 6-foot-1 215-pound Isaac earned Scout Team Defensive Player of the Year honors as a linebacker under then-coach Brian Kelly.

After hearing about a woman on campus being sexually assaulted when walking home late from class, Isaac took action by instituting a chaperone program. He and other players posted their cell phone numbers around CMU and on facebook, offering to walk with female students on campus at night. "He didn't like injustice," Shawn Loughrige said. "Especially against females. He's got two older sisters and a younger sister."

Following a string of injuries, Isaac transferred to Grand Rapids Community College. He was there playing football, planning on returning to CMU before he got sick and spent his final days at his parents' home. "Issac's life was a gift to us," Shawn Loughrige said. "He came from heaven, and he went back to heaven." It was estimated that over 750 people attended Isaac's funeral in Marshall to pay their respects and say goodbye. "It was just indicative of the kind of kid he is," Shawn Loughrige said. "We are so thankful that we raised him in this community." The community support has been 'overwhelming' according to the couple. Collection jugs were passed around to friends and businesses in the community to help raise proceeds for the 'I've Got Your Back' Foundation, and will be collected around Isaac's birthday on March 16.

For more information or to donate to the 'I've Got Your Back' Foundation, visit online at www.ivegotyourbacks.org. I've Got Your Back Foundation
* TO DONATE: For more information on the I've Got Your Back Foundation or to donate, visit www.ivegotyourbacks.org.
* ONLINE: Listen to the interview with Shawn and Kathleen Loughrige as they discuss their late son Isaac and the foundation created in his name at www.battlecreekenquirer.com

The foundation drew upon Isaac's passion for helping and working with children to implement a football camp and a tutoring program, provide school supplies and athletic equipment for underprivileged kids and provide winter coats, gloves and boots for needy children. Former Marshall head football coach Rich Hulkow remembers Isaac as an extremely passionate competitor on the gridiron, and as a leader and a role model off the field.

Author: Nick Buckley
Date: Jan 17, 2010
Section: SPORTS

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