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PHOTO COURTESY OF MARIST ATHLETICS

Blaxers Blog: The Life and Legacy of Eddie Coombs


US Lacrosse Magazine has partnered with Blaxers Blog to produce a series of stories that illuminate the minority lacrosse experience and promote the accomplishments of those individuals who have defied stereotypes to succeed in the sport.

Read more about Blaxers Blog and the content partnership here.

Leaders aren’t defined by skill; they’re measured by their ability to lift up others. The late Edward Taylor Coombs exemplified every aspect of what leadership represents. His infectious spirit lit every room he walked into as he pushed others to be better versions of themselves.

Tragedy struck the lacrosse community in 2011 when the Marist freshman was a passenger in a DUI-related car accident and died in his hometown of Horsham, Pa. Coombs’ family and friends took the initiative to tell his story while continuing his mission.

EDWARD TAYLOR COOMBS

Hometown: Horsham, Pa.
Position: Midfield
College: Marist (2011)
High School: Hatboro-Horsham (2007-10)

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

Eric and Forrestine Coombs instilled the values of initiative and humility into both of their children. These factors strengthened the roots of an eternal standard. Knowledge of Black history and paternal Barbadian heritage were constant lessons Edward and Erin Coombs found motivation in.

“Our parents raised us the same, and we were always in sync,” Erin Coombs said. “It was important for us to learn about the sacrifices our grandparents made to get here.” 

Erin Coombs had a tight bond with her late brother, as he protected throughout her life. As children, the duo would communicate through the wall that separated their rooms. When traveling on vacation or attending family functions, their connection was inseparable. Erin yearned for the big city, but Edward enjoyed being a small-town figure in Horsham.

“He loved being known in certain places without being cocky about it,” Erin Coombs said. “A little of himself was everywhere.”

Starting in the fifth grade, Edward began playing lacrosse and instantly fell in love. He later played travel lacrosse for Rebel Elite.

As a teenager, he mentored Duke attackman Michael Sowers while playing under Sowers’ father, David, at Hatboro-Horsham. Michael Sowers elaborated on his mentor’s impact during an interview last year on “The Time & Space Podcast,” hosted by Nazareth alumni Francis Donald and Jordan Hirsh.

“He was one of my favorite players growing up, and I idolized him on and off the field by the way he carried himself,” Sowers said. “I watched him play football and bring those moves to lacrosse. I tried to do that, too.”

As a senior in high school, Coombs was named conference MVP and an all-state selection after guiding his team to a league championship and state tournament berth.


“He was one of my favorite players growing up, and I idolized him on and off the field by the way he carried himself.” — Michael Sowers


MAKING THE GRADE

As a youth, Edward found a love for learning, as both of his grandmothers served as educators. One served as a special education teacher, and the other was a high school business instructor. During the summer, they would summon him from playing with friends to learn from flash cards and complete workbooks.

“He was an avid reader who wasn’t afraid to ask for help,” Erin Coombs said. 

While he developed his skills at Hatboro-Horsham, Coombs was a consistent honor roll scholar. His principal appointed him to join the National Youth Leadership Forum on Law and Crime Scene Investigations (CSI) event in Washington, D.C. The six-day competitive law program consisted of hands-on legal training, instruction from law school faculty and interactions with top law professionals in courthouse settings.

Later as adults, the Coombs siblings had invaluable conversations regarding life goals, encouraging each other in their collegiate studies. Edward aspired to become a lawyer once he graduated from Marist. Erin completed her Political Science and Government, History and Urban Planning bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

After completing his freshman year at Marist, Coombs was one of the youngest interns at the Montgomery County district attorney’s office in Pennsylvania. Lacrosse was the bridge toward his future, and he fully understood what his trajectory as a young Black man meant to those who looked up to him.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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IMPACT AT MARIST

Coombs cemented his role as a natural leader and Marist legend by leaving it all out on the field. His unwavering dedication motivated many to follow. Erin Coombs, the late star’s sister, explained how he matured at Marist.

“Marist was like family to him, and the small town vibe was a fit,” she said. “Marist offered him a push beyond where we grew up and know the new community he began to love.”

Marist head coach Keegan Wilkinson had a profound impact on Coombs in the early stages of his recruitment. Wilkinson’s personality made Coombs feel at home, and Marist became the clear choice following his graduation from Hatboro-Horsham. Coombs inspired the program’s gradual rise, Wilkinson said.

“If a casual fan went to a game, they’d walk away saying they loved seeing Eddie Coombs play,” Wilkinson said. “He played with a relentless attitude and went after every play like it was his last. He was a dynamic guy who hung on every word and invested in our team.”

Coombs battled a hamstring injury during most of his freshman season, but he played every scheduled shift. Despite his condition, he willed Marist to three overtime wins and scored his first collegiate goal in the program’s first-ever ranked victory over Albany. By season’s end, Coombs had recorded 25 ground balls and 16 caused turnovers.

“Eddie never backed down from a challenge, and it was one of the pillars we still carry today,” Wilkinson said. “Eddie means everything to us, and receiving the 34 jersey is the highest honor in our program. We’re fortunate that he set the bar for us.” 

“Unbelievable” was the common descriptor used by Coombs’ Marist teammates and coaches. Current Marist upperclassmen annually educate the young players of Coombs’ legacy and the lessons he taught the program, even though they never met him themselves — a true testament to his legacy. 

As a result, underclassmen often feel as if they were longtime friends of Coombs. As a tradition, Marist players periodically send words of encouragement to the Coombs family via letters and text messages. Even on birthdays and holidays, the Red Foxes go out of their way to show appreciation and dedication to the Coombs family. 

Michael Linehan elaborated on the close times he spent with Coombs while playing at Marist. Linehan is now a senior account executive for Remerge, a marketing and advertising company.

“He brought this energy and rawness that was remarkable,” Linehan said. “Eddie had every quality that you’d want in a student-athlete. As great of a talent Eddie was, he was 10 times better of a man by the way he cared for other people.”

In 2012, Marist preserved Coombs’ locker as a memorial and named the outstanding freshman award after him. Within the plexiglass display, Edward’s white 34 jersey is flanked between his gloves and cleats. An action photo sits below his jersey as red and white Marsist helmets converge in front. A poetry display is stationed above the Coombs’ jersey next to his nameplate.

Former teammate, Jack Kensil had a close bond with the late star and modelled his training company, 2 Wolves Performance after Coombs’ principles and ability. He takes time out of every session to share a life lesson that Coombs lived by to his clients.

“Eddie made the game fun and would put a smile on your face at 5 a.m.,” Jack Kensil said. “He played at one speed — faster than everybody else. The proudest moment of my career was carrying Eddie’s flag on senior day in 2012. He has a huge impact on me in my daily life.”




PHOTO COURTESY OF MARIST ATHLETICS


KEEPING THE LEGACY ALIVE

As young adults, the Coombs siblings were committed to volunteering as they serviced charity events within the greater Horsham community.

“It’s important to give back because we were taught to share our blessings with others, and you’ll never know what kindness and goodness can do for someone else,” Erin Coombs said. 

Eddie Coombs’ bright spirit meant too much to too many people for it to fade into the sunset. As a family, the Coombs’ collaborated with friends and developed a mission to find ways of inspiring high school seniors to be community leaders like their son aspired to become. 

In August 2011, a 5K walk in Horsham became the inaugural event to commemorate his life. It generated $25,000 in donations.

“After it happened, people sent our family money, and we didn’t know how to mark his memory,” Erin Coombs said.

Edward’s uncle originally suggested that the donations be funneled into a foundation. In 2011, Forrestine Coombs established the Edward Taylor Coombs Foundation after submitting a 501C3 application. 

Originally, Eric Coombs wanted to award scholarships over a five-year period to see how it would blossom.

“Now entering into our 10th year, we’ve given nearly $700,000 in scholarships,” Erin Coombs said.

The ETC Foundation scholarship allotments fluctuate year to year as applicants are required to compose essays about what decision-making encompasses and navigating a world full of pressures. On average, 50-70 applicants contend for 15 merit-based scholarships. One of the awards is reserved for an incoming Marist freshman to help bridge the gap between academics and athletics.

“Sometimes, we’re able to give out more than usual via book scholarships of $500 each,” Erin Coombs said. “We look for well-rounded, young leaders who show promise for the future. These were characteristics Edward exhibited, and we want to reward those who follow his path.”

Before the pandemic, the foundation hosted roundtable discussions with high school seniors about consent, peer pressure and drunk driving. It serves as a resource to help students to confidently converse with their families and peers while defeating stigmas. In 2020, the focus shifted towards social media pressures as the applicant pool expanded beyond the Philadelphia area.

Since 2012, the ETC Foundation has hosted golf outings and fall ball tournaments at Marist. In 2020, the annual 5k was held virtually. In 2016, a Wilmington, Del., based team of underrepresented youth branded themselves as the ETC 34s in the legend’s memory. 

OTHER WAYS COOMBS IS REMEMBERED: 

  • In 2013, the Hatboro-Horsham School board dedicated a new scoreboard in the legend’s namesake after a $30,000 sponsorship was collaborated with the Edward Taylor Coombs Foundation. 

  • In 2015, Coombs was posthumously inducted into the Hatboro-Horsham High School Athletic Walk of Fame.

  • Hatboro-Horsham’s library dedicated a literary event in his memory called “Ed Coombs Reads.” The event highlighted his favorite books and his thirst for knowledge. One of his favorite authors was Sista Souljah, a writer who documented Black life in America. Edward’s most beloved book was Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.