Wilberforce University student’s friends remember him as having the ‘heart of a lion’

William Jacob Easton. Photo courtesy Wilberforce University

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William Jacob Easton. Photo courtesy Wilberforce University

Wilberforce University is mourning the loss of a senior and point guard for the basketball team died after a car crash in Florida last week.

Services for William Jacob Easton will be Saturday at Bethel Baptists Institutional Church in his hometown Jacksonville, Florida. He was 21. Easton was finishing his last semester of school remotely at home but had planned to come back to Wilberforce for his graduation, the university said.

“William was the epitome of what you would want for any young man,” Wilberforce University Athletics Director Derek Williams said. “This is a huge loss for the university and his home community.”

Williams said Easton was a rehabilitation counselling major and was focusing on social work.

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Deatry Lang, who goes to Wilberforce, said he has known Easton since they were 3.

“He was the closest thing I had to a brother,” Lang said. “That was the greatest gift God could have ever given me, was for me to be able to call him my brother.”

Lang said was Easton a great athlete despite having what he called a “bum leg.” Easton tore a ligament in his knee as a child and it healed enough for him to compete in sports, Lang said. Easton also ran on the cross country and track teams at Wilberforce.

Lang said he and Easton always found their way back to each other. After growing up together, they went to different middle schools, but ended up together later in high school. They then were roommates at Wilberforce.

“Any time we left each other, we knew we’d find our way back to each other,” Lang said.

Keyon Boatwright, a teammate and friend of Easton’s, said Easton was a positive force on the team and for his friends.

“He would always tell me to keep my head up,” Boatwright said. “He made sure everyone around him was OK.”

Williams said Easton walked into a room and made people smile.

“He made sure he kept the atmosphere around him joyous,” Williams said.

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Boatwright and Easton met in Jacksonville, when Boatwright was in middle school. Boatwright said he is four years older than Easton and had the opportunity to watch him grow up at home and then at Wilberforce. Easton was a motivated student and tried to help his friends around him. Boatwright said he looked up to Easton for that.

Easton was the life of the party and always telling his friends to “have fun” and enjoy themselves, Boatwright said.

“I can’t believe I am going back home for his funeral. I feel like I am in a dream,” Boatwright said. “He had more life to live. He had so much more to accomplish on this Earth.”

Easton was about 5 feet, 2 inches tall, but Boatwright said it didn’t matter how big his opponent was, Easton played fearlessly against them.

“He played his heart out,” Boatwright said.

Lang said Easton was always “the shortest guy in the gym.”

“But he had the heart of a lion,” Lang said.

Easton will be awarded a posthumous degree during commencement ceremonies on May 29.

Wilberforce President Elfred Anthony Pinkard said Easton made Wilberforce a better place “because of who he was.”

“The sudden passing of someone beloved, especially so young, is never easy,” Pinkard said.

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