ST. CHARLES – Austin Griffeth and Aidan Carlson's friendship first blossomed at Anderson Elementary School in St. Charles.
"Best buds," Griffeth said. "We're always close."
That friendship has carried onto the football field, where the two are sophomores on the St. Charles North sophomore team. Griffeth said Carlson is the kind of person that wants to be best friends with everybody he can.
He also wants to be the best football player he can be.
"He always wants to keep going to get better [on the football field]," said Griffeth, a sophomore lineman. "He doesn't really stop. He wants to make sure he's the best of the best."
Carlson is now in the hearts and minds of the entire St. Charles North football program – and community – as it shines support and encouragement toward their teammate and friend amid perhaps the most difficult of circumstances.
Carlson, a running back and linebacker for the North Stars sophomore-level team, suffered a subdural hematoma – bleeding on his brain – and collapsed in the locker room after the sophomore football game at St. Charles East last Friday, according to his uncle Sean Peters.
Carlson, in the pediatric intensive care unit at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, woke up from a medically-induced coma Monday.
A GoFundMe campaign for Carlson has raised over $22,700. A host of sophomore-level football families are also selling white scarves for $10 each, and donating all proceeds to the Carlson family. The initiative, "Aidan's Angels," has sold 150 scarves as of 9 p.m. Tuesday, per Dan Curzon, one of the organizers.
Orders may be sent to AidansAngels@outlook.com.
With heavy hearts, the St. Charles North program prepares for its next games. The North Stars' varsity and sophomore teams host Glenbard North on Friday. It is Senior Night for the varsity team.
"As every day moves forward, we are dedicating the rest of the season for him," sophomore team defensive back and wide receiver Joey Curzon said. "I'm pretty sure we're putting stickers on our helmets and I think we're bringing his [No. 19] jersey out [to midfield]. He's going to be an honorary captain for the rest of the year."
"We're just getting stronger as a team," Joey Curzon continued.
Curzon says Carlson "is super fast" on the field.
"I know he's a very successful track and field runner," Curzon said. "On kickoffs and on special teams, he's the first one to the ball, always."
"[Carlson is] the fastest kid on the field," sophomore offensive lineman and linebacker Michael Whitted said.
On the varsity side, senior linebacker Ben Furtney reports "we've all done a great job really leading each other through this time."
"Everyone has been really leaning on each other to stay positive," Furtney said. "And, take every day and play this game for him and his family."
Beyond monetary support, sophomore quarterback and teammate Aidan Pieper organized a "Get well" poster board card for Carlson last weekend that is signed by members of both the sophomore and varsity teams.
"When we're allowed to go see him, we can give it to him as a gift," Pieper said. "He's a really selfless person. He's always helping out his teammates before he worries about himself."
Other showings of support include the St. Charles North varsity volleyball team wearing a small blue ribbon on their shoes. The St. Charles East cheerleading team also posed with a sign, and posted the picture to Twitter.
"The guys around [Carlson] are phenomenal," Whitted said. "I just think Aidan has got an amazing group of guys around him, supporting him."