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With Kansas high school football set to kickoff, Blue Valley Coach Driskell’s memory looms large

STILWELL, Kan. -- He's gone -- but not forgotten. Football season will begin this Friday for high schools in Kansas -- and Blue Valley High School's beloved leader will be on everyone's minds.

Eric Driskell was close to everyone's heart at Blue Valley, as well as to football programs and coaches across Kansas City. This coming Friday night, when the Tigers kick off their season with a road trip to Bishop Miege, T-shirts bearing a quote from Driskell will be on dozens of coaches' backs as they work the sidelines.

Those shirts have been a popular item around Johnson County -- thanks to Marsha Waldron and Christine Kinney -- co-presidents of the Blue Valley Touchdown Club.

On February 15th -- Driskell died at Research Medical Center -- three days after he collapsed while speaking at a gathering of metro football coaches. Doctors say it was a ruptured aneurysm in Driskell's brain. He was only 43 years old -- and had led the Tigers to a state 5-A title in 2013.

"Most of the coaches who are in the Kansas City high school football association are wearing them on Friday night," said Kinney. "It's gone beyond Kansas City. It's been a huge amount of support for the team."

The Touchdown Club has sold over 5,000 of the shirts -- and every dime goes to Driskell's family.

"It's a wow factor, for sure. It really touches your heart. It makes you step back and realize that someone, at 43 years of age, had such a huge impact on the community, on kids, on families," Waldron said.

Carrying on without Coach Driskell isn't easy for the team he leaves behind.

"We're playing football, and football fixes a lot of things," the Tigers' new head coach, Allen Terrell, said.

He's tasked with helping the teenagers on the team to -- as Driskell said -- live like champions.

"It speaks to Eric. He touched a lot of people. There wasn't a person I knew who didn't like Eric Driskell. They wanted to show it," Terrell said.

Even the staff at Bishop Miege will be wearing the Driskell shirts on Friday. Stags Coach Jon Holmes told FOX 4 that Driskell's memory is something worth keeping alive because of the positive impact he had on so many young people.