LYNDHURST, N.J.– More than 200 mourners turned out Wednesday for a Muslim funeral in Paterson for Deniz Akar, a 2014 Lyndhurst High School graduate who died of a suspected drug overdose on Monday.
Loved ones of the 20-year-old Akar each had a moment alone with the body before taking turns shoveling dirt over the casket, Lyndhurst football coach Richie Tuero told Daily Voice.
Many of the attendees were current and former LHS classmates.
"We lost a great kid," Tuero told Daily Voice after the service at the Ulu Cami United Islamic Center in Paterson. "The support was incredible.
"Seeing the town of Lyndhurst come together...They were there for one reason: their love for Deniz.”
Tuero lost his best friend in 2010 .
Yet seeing Akin Akar -- a junior team member of the Golden Bears who wears his brother's No. 53 -- was heartbreaking.
“That was the hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with," Tuero said.
The older Akar, who played offensive line and linebacker, "knew a lot about nothing, and a lot about something," the coach added. "He was one of my boys. He had a great sense of humor. He told it how it was. He had no fear.”
One of Akar's most memorable moments came in a come-from behind win over Glen Rock.
Despite being a lineman, he executed back-to-back onside kicks, both of which Lyndhurst recovered. The team scored on both drives and won 24-22 after trailing 22-8 at halftime.
"It was incredible," Tuero said.
Akar was part of Tuero's freshman team, dubbed "The Blue Crew."
A year later, during a double-session practice day, he approached the coach. It was hot, and he was tired.
"You know when your parents tell you to take out the garbage and you don’t want to do it but you do it anyway?" he told Tuero. "That’s how I feel about football.”
The coach told him he could always leave, so Akar walked out. But he was back two hours later, giving it his all.
"That’s when I knew how real you are coach," he told Tuero, "because you accepted my feelings instead of yelling.”
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