Tragedy strikes LaRose

J.R. LaRose left the Esks after practice on Saturday to help search for relatives who went missing...

J.R. LaRose left the Esks after practice on Saturday to help search for relatives who went missing last week. SUN MEDIA/Perry Mah

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:14 AM ET

The grieving process has started for J.R. LaRose.

The Edmonton Eskimos defensive back has been given compassionate leave from the club during training camp because his cousin - Chantele LaRose - lost her five-year-old son in Devil's Lake this past week.

Hunor LaRose was found in the lake Saturday evening along with his father and a family friend.

The deaths have clearly rocked the LaRose extended family, which explains why J.R. left the team after practice in Spruce Grove Saturday and missed practice yesterday.

"He (was supposed to) turn six next month," said LaRose on Hunor late last night, "and I got a son who is five in August.

"To think of burying my son - there is no words to discuss (that)."

The tone of LaRose's voice on the phone late last night easily painted the picture of a deeply saddened young man.

With very quiet words, he tried to describe his feelings.

A father of two young boys - Alozie (two) and Katrell (four) - this tragedy also strikes another chord within him.

"It's tough," he said. "You definitely look at (life) differently when it hits this close to home."

Before trying to get some rest last night, LaRose thought he might return to the team for this morning's practices.

"Originally, I planned on coming back tomorrow (Monday morning) and then I believe the funeral will be on Thursday or Friday," he said, noting he will be attending.

"But I'm going to wake up (this morning) and see how I'm going to feel."

Edmonton Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia has put no clock on when 24-year-old LaRose has to return to the team.

"This is a terrible tragedy," said the coach, in a prepared statement issued by the club.

"The entire Eskimo organization extends its deepest condolences to J.R. and his family."

This tragedy comes at a time when LaRose is in a real battle to make the Edmonton Eskimos for a fourth season.

The Edmonton native has lost his starting safety job and is now fighting to be a back-up cornerback and special teams starter. A former Edmonton Huskie, LaRose has had a roller-coaster type camp and needs to shine in the exhibition season.

The Eskimos first pre-season game is Friday in Calgary with the regular season starting June 28 in Regina.

While nothing is set in stone, it would seem logical to suggest LaRose will not play Friday in Calgary because of the funeral being either Thursday or Friday.

That would put him at a disadvantage to make the team, meaning he would only have one pre-season game left to play - June 19 at home to Saskatchewan.

But the loss of Hunor is what is front and centre on his mind right now.

Close with his family, LaRose knew the young boy.

LaRose's mother had contacted him last week to notify him of Hunor's disappearance from his fishing trip on Monday at Devil's Lake.

However, the personable CFL veteran had kept the news of the frantic search for his missing family member very quiet around the team.

After thinking about joining the search effort for the missing individuals earlier in the week - missing practice in the process - LaRose had decided to join the searchers after Saturday's practice in Spruce Grove.

Unfortunately, the search ended around 7 p.m Saturday when Hunor's body was pulled from the lake.

It was also on Saturday night when LaRose first told Macoicia about his tie to the tragedy.


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