Loyal, kindhearted, determined, are some of the terms the Lumberton community is remembering as it mourns the loss of Gus Sandifer.
Augustus ‘Gus’ Sandifer, 19, passed away after tragic car accident last Wednesday on I-59 after picking up his niece in the early morning hours after her car broke down.
Sandifer, who was the youngest of nine, was a recent graduate of Lumberton, where he played football and is fondly remembered by his teammates and coaches who will be pallbearers.
His infectious laugh, entrepreneurship, and love for Lumberton football are just a few ways to describe Sandifer.
“His attitude, work ethic, demeanor, drive, and self-motivation are rare in today’s world, and that’s one of the things that I think his friends and classmates will take with them,” Lumberton football coach Zach Jones said. “He definitely left a mark on not just Lumberton football, Lumberton High School but the city of Lumberton in general. There’s a lot of people hurting right now.
“He was a good person and as kindhearted of a person, you would ever meet. As hard-working of a person that you would ever meet and as self-driven of anybody I had ever met. That drive and motivation are rare. That’s one thing that we talked about how we could honor him and that’s work hard but have fun doing it because that’s how he did it.”
Sandifer primarily played defensive line for the Panthers and helped Lumberton make two trips to the state championship game. In his career, Sandifer acquired 289 tackles with 108 in his senior year. His love and dedication to the game of football was how he lived his life.
“He just had an energy about him,” teammate and friend Cullen Hammond said. “It was an energy that you wanted to be around.”
For Jones, Sandifer was an example of what the program hopes for their athletes to become.
“He embodied what you want a Lumberton Panther to be, and he is a guy that came here and worked hard from the beginning and did what we asked him to do and was here every day,” Jones said. “He set the example.
“He was not only a successful football player who helped make this program better, but he was a successful person. That’s what we want our guys to be when they leave here. We want them to use the skills that we worked on in football, which are hard work and dedication. We want them to take those things with them. Gus is a guy who used a lot of the things that we talked about and worked on here. I think he used them in his life. He was set up for success, and it didn’t matter what he did; he was going to be successful at it. He was that self-driven and that self-motivated.”
Sandifer was never afraid to befriend anybody and was known for his infectious character and laugh that always cheered people up or brightened someone’s day. He was also loyal to his friends and family and stood by them whenever they needed them, even in regular day-to-day life.
“He was someone that if you needed a laugh or if you needed to cut up, then you’d go to him,” teammate and friend Roland O’Banner said. “If you just needed a good ole laugh, you would just go to him. He used to make sure everybody was all good. He would check in and look out for people. He was a very social person.”
Teammate Tavis Toney started playing football because of Sandifer and joined together in the sixth grade. Toney described him as someone that his entire team admired.
“He was a very open-hearted person,” Toney said. “He always had a smile on his face and was never down. He was a leader on and off the field. He was the leader of our class. He was far ahead of us all honestly. He had everything set up.”
However, Sandifer’s leadership extended past the football team and was someone who his entire senior class admired.
“He was a guy that not only his teammates, but his classmates looked up too,” Jones said. “He was the one guy that if they needed a laugh or a pick me up, then he was the guy they went too. I think that says a lot for somebody to play that role and why everybody is hurting the way they are because of who he was and how he meant so much to so many different people.”
While he enjoyed everyday life and helped brighten others’ day, Sandifer was also a motivator and was described as someone who was “bound to be successful.” If he was not on the football field,
“What set him apart above all was that he had everything mapped out and everything planned out,” Jones added. “He knew exactly what he was going to do. If he wasn’t here, he was always working. He knew what he wanted to be. It’s so rare in today’s world that young people are that motivated and self-driven to be successful. He was a light to everybody here.”
When not on the football field, Sandifer was working and always trying to find innovative ways to work. He had even set up a side business of renting out an inflatable water slide and had planned to attend Pearl River Community College in the fall.
“The way his mind worked was that he had his future set up,” Hammond said. “He had known since the seventh or eighth grade that he wanted to start his own business and be his own boss.”
For both Jones and his teammates, the way Sandifer lived his life is the goal and example of how someone would want to be remembered. Although Sandifer was a great athlete on the field, his family, friends and community will forever remember that he lived his life to the fullest.
“None of us know how short life is,” Jones said. “I don’t think you can measure life by how many days you live, but you measure them by the impact while you are here. Gus is one of those people who had as big of an impact as anybody I had ever met. (His impact) was evident by his friends, co-workers, classmates, teammates because all they want to do is honor him. I hope when something happens to me that I left the kind of mark that Gus Sandison left.”