Forzani deals with big loss

Stampeders wide receiver Johnny Forzani.

Stampeders wide receiver Johnny Forzani.

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:15 AM ET

CALGARY - As Johnny Forzani prepared for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, he received the usual ‘go get ’em’ message from good friend Alex Conrad.

By the time Forzani and the Stampeders returned home from beating the Riders Aug. 12, there was nothing but silence.

Forzani had missed the celebration with his friends, and it had turned to tragedy.

As the Stamps put on a great show in Regina, Conrad was out toasting a promotion he’d just received at 1600 World Bier Haus, a trendy southwest Calgary restaurant where he was a manager.

Late in the evening, leaving a different bar, Conrad was horsing around on an escalator. He fell about 40 feet, hitting his head.

On Monday, after he showed no signs of pulling out of a coma, the family gave up and Conrad died. He was 25.

On Tuesday, one of his best friends showed up for work heavy hearted. Forzani’s now trying to focus on a big football game while coping with the reality of how quickly a life of the party can be silenced.

“I’m in shock,” Forzani said. “He was messing around, and he put his leg over the side of the escalator. He lost balance — it was a freak, stupid accident. It was one stupid thing he did.

“Being around the guys (in the locker-room), it helps to get the mind off it.

“This will take a while to recover from.”

One of the last Twitter messages Conrad sent out was to wish Forzani and the Stamps well against the Riders.

Forzani and Conrad grew up playing basketball and loving the Los Angeles Lakers together.

When Forzani took off for a year of football at Washington State, he got a well-wishing call the day before every game.

The reality of life’s fragility is new to the 22-year-old second-year Stampeders receiver, which makes coping with loss even tougher.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to have the same crew of friends forever,” Forzani said. “We’ve never lost anybody — and I don’t know how I’m going to deal with it.”

Through Forzani, Conrad got to know a few members of the Stampeders, specifically Nik Lewis and Henry Burris. He was the type of person who made friends easily.

“He was so positive all the time,” Forzani said. “You could be around him all day because he was always laughing. He never had a mean gesture to anybody.”

On Tuesday, Burris sent out a Twitter message about losing two friends, one being Conrad and the other a fan he got to know. Jessica Bechthold died Friday of cancer. She was 20.

“One of the last things she told me was that she wanted us to win the Grey Cup,” Burris said. “I know Alex would have said the same thing. He would want us to whip some butt. It’s two amazing people that aren’t with us anymore.

“They were people with so much life ahead of them … To me the most tragic thing is parents watching their children go before them. As a parent myself, that really hits home.”

Forzani hopes to do something with Lewis to honour Conrad in some way. He’s not sure what yet.

“I’m sure Nik will score a touchdown for him,” Forzani said, before pausing.

“I hope I could get one. I would love to get a touchdown for Alex. He always wanted me to do well.”

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca


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