SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- A local college football team is remembering a player who died in what police said was a drag-racing accident in Springfield. That crash happened less than a month ago.

Western Mass News spoke with members of the American International College football team who told us how this player forever leave his mark in their lives.

"He was just somebody that was always talking, always laughing, just overall a good person," said graduate assistant coach Mike-Ryan Mofor.

The AIC football team mourns the loss of 19-year-old freshman Michael Raiford, who died in what police said was a drag-racing car crash on October 23.

"I interacted with him a lot and things of that nature. He was playing my position, and he was always texting me, calling me, asking how he could get better. He became a little brother to me honestly," said assistant coach Shane Gaines.

The team took the news hard and told Western Mass News the cornerback was always the one to put a smile on someone's face.

"Even though he was a freshman, I think he had a big impact on everybody here," said senior captain Jason Thompson. "Mike was a guy that, even though he wasn't practicing, he was kind of like the life of the team. "

The team honored Raiford soon after his passing with a candle-light vigil and a public school gathering on the track. Mofor said the practice isn't the same without him.

"Practice does feel different, cause I talked to him like every day, cause [at] practice he wasn't cleared yet, so he'd be on the sideline, and it was a point we would have like a first group practice," he explained. "[At] the second group, he would be on the sideline. So I would talk to him like every day. It was weird not having him on the sideline to talk the following week."

Though Raiford won't be here physically with the team on the field, his impact will always be present.

"Everyone has a different sense of urgency, had that energy and wanted to come [to] honor Mike, which was a great thing," Thompson added.

Already feeling stronger together, Mofor and the rest of the team agreed this season be for Raiford.

"For him, we want to show how resilient we are and that we are going to honor him. So I think, if going forward, we show resiliency and how close of a team we are," he said.

Copyright 2020 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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