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Community Mourns After Suburban Football Star Dies in Apparent Suicide

Family said the teen had been battling depression the last few years but "his depression worsened significantly after COVID hit"

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A Chicago community is mourning after a top student athlete at Glenbrook North High School died Thursday in an apparent suicide just months before graduation.

Dylan Buckner, 18, was found unresponsive at the Deerfield Embassy Suites Thursday afternoon, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office. Deerfield police confirmed they were called to the hotel.

Buckner's father, Chris Buckner, said the teen had been battling depression the last few years but "his depression worsened significantly after COVID hit."

"The family believes that had COVID not happened, or the country's response to COVID had been more effective, Dylan would still be alive today," Chris Buckner wrote in a statement, adding "we are really, really going to miss him."

Darius Hunt, Buckner's friend, said the two met playing football in middle school and that he had a bright future for both football and academics.

“It used to always be a close game against each other and the one year we actually won, it was my first year ever playing, he came up to me and was like, we’ll see you next year and after that we just became friends,” Hunt said.

Buckner, who played quarterback and was captain of the school's football team, was expected to graduate with honors and hoped to play football at MIT in the fall, his family said. He had received 14 offers to play football at Division III schools, according to his father.

“Dylan will always be ‘D Buck’ I call him ‘D Buck’ because of his name,” Hunt said. “He was a really smart kid and very passionate for the game. He was the kid, no matter what, win or lose he was always smiling always had something funny to say.”

In a statement Glenbrook North Head Coach Matt Purdy said the team "lost an amazing leader, friend, dedicated student, and athlete."

"He was respected and loved by so many, and his lasting impact is felt and noted through hundreds of emails, texts, and notes we are receiving from our school community and far beyond," Purdy said. "As an athlete, Dylan was a decorated football player who will be remembered as one of the best quarterbacks in school history. Dylan was the definition of leadership, he was a great teammate who was respected by opponents and coaches throughout the state. The news of his passing leaves a hole in my heart, just knowing that he will not be around us anymore.  He always did right by others and cared deeply for his teammates and classmates."

Buckner wore the number 7 for his team and holds his Glenbrook North High School’s record for passing competition despite not being able to play his senior year.

“He said he was coming this year, this was going to be his year, and then I was waiting to see it. But unfortunately, it got cancelled due to COVID,” Hunt said.

The school's principal called it a "profound loss."

"It is with deep sadness that I share news of the tragic and sudden loss of GBN Senior Dylan Buckner," Principal Jason Markey wrote in a letter to parents and students. "This is a profound loss for our entire school community and our hearts go out to all of Dylan’s family and friends. These are the times when we need to reach out, check in, and ensure that we are caring for one another."

The school said counselors would be available for students throughout the day Friday.

In honor of Buckner, Purdy said he was "asking everyone to love and appreciate each other."

"Parents, go and hug your kids, and kids tell your parents you love them," he said. "These are the toughest of times right now for everyone, and the best thing we can do is support each other and let people in our lives know how much they are valued and loved. That’s what Dylan would do."

SUICIDE PREVENTION HELP: Here is information on suicide prevention from the National Institute of Mental Health. If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting ‘Home’ to 741741. 

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