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On February 28, 2009, four friends set out for an all day fishing event in the Gulf of Mexico which quickly turned disastrous. All four men including NFL players Marquis Cooper, Corey Smith and former USF Football Captain Will Bleakley were lost at sea for days before one friend, Nick Schuyler, was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard. Unfortunately, the other three men were not so lucky; they were never found and are presumed dead.
One of the men was William Bleakley. Will graduated with honors from Crystal River High School in 2002, after being named a St. Petersburg Times All-Suncoast tight end in 2001. He lettered in three seasons with the University of South Florida Bulls from 2004-06. Bleakley was a walk-on to the USF team, but later earned a scholarship and became captain. He graduated from USF in 2006 with degrees in accounting and finance.
Will was also a member of the 2008-2009 St. Petersburg Storm Baseball Team which plays in the Clearwater Men’s Adult Baseball League. His last game was exactly 6 days before this tragic accident. He was the type of player who is irreplaceable in a lineup and irreplaceable as a friend and our team will never be the same without him in our lives. Will was a hero and is credited with swimming under the capsized boat to retrieve the life jackets which saved the life of his friend, Nick. This is the type of person he was. He loved to golf, fish, play cards, football, baseball, volleyball and other sports. Will has a legion of friends, classmates, and teammates who understand what a great guy that he was. As a teammate, Will was someone you could always count on. Even when the games weren’t going our way, you could always find a smile on Will’s face. Our team will greatly miss him. There is no greater way to honor someone you lose than by keeping their memory alive.
We’ll be hosting the Second Annual Will Bleakley Memorial Baseball Tournament on May 21-23 in Tampa Bay, Florida. All proceeds of the tournament will go towards sustaining The Will Bleakley Memorial Scholarship Fund at the University of South Florida for a high school graduate who exemplifies the courage, kindness and commitment that Will showed all of us. Our scholarship is currently set up and awards one incoming needy freshman $1,500 per semester until our funds fun out. Last year’s tournament raised over $7,000.00 thanks to our donors, players and all the great media coverage from local media outlets. We need your support to continue this scholarship into the future.