Missing NFL player’s family says they’ve given up search

Ex-college football player  Nick Schuyler clings to an overturned boat Monday in this Coast Guard photo.
The family of an NFL player that had vowed to continue the search for him and two other boaters missing off the coast of Florida announced Friday that they are giving up.

“Thursday at 5 p.m., we received new information on the events of last Saturday and decided to discontinue the search for Marquis,” Bruce Cooper, Marquis Cooper’s father, said in a written statement. “We want to thank everyone in Arizona, Tampa, and all over the United States for their thoughts, well-wishes, prayers and volunteer efforts on our behalf. We especially want to thank the members of the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Air Force, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife agency for their extraordinary and courageous efforts to rescue Marquis and his friends.” Oakland Raiders linebacker Cooper, NFL free agent Corey Smith and William Bleakley, a former college football player, went missing after their fishing boat capsized Saturday. Authorities think the boat flipped as the men tried to lift anchor. The Coast Guard rescued one man, Nick Schuyler, on Monday but called off the search Tuesday, saying that any other survivors would have been found by then. Watch why the Coast Guard ended its search » Family members of all three told CNN’s “Larry King Live” on Wednesday that they were continuing a private search, using at least three planes and 12 boats. Cooper said in his statement Friday, “We are beginning the process of healing. We are staying prayerful. One day the pain will be a little less burdensome. Right now, we just need time to be together and remember Marquis.” No memorial service for his son is planned, said Bruce Cooper, who is a sports anchor with an Arizona television station. “The family has decided to forgo any such service and asks instead that all of you memorialize Marquis in your hearts and thoughts.”

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The four men left for a fishing trip in a 21-foot single-engine boat from the Seminole Boat Ramp near Clearwater Pass about 6:30 a.m. Saturday, officials said. A search was launched Sunday after they failed to return. Schuyler, while recovering at a hospital, told authorities that some of the men lost hope during their struggle, took off their life vests and slipped away.

Schuyler, a former University of South Florida football player, was found clinging to the overturned boat. Over approximately 46 hours in the water, Schuyler kept returning to one thought: He didn’t want his mother to attend his funeral, Schuyler’s doctor said. Bruce Cooper said in his statement Friday, “Marquis was a great father and husband and a great provider for his family. His daughter and wife Rebekah will be OK; they just need time to heal.”