Gilyard died in a single-car crash on County Road 302.
by: Brian McMillan and Samira Taite-Headspeth
Nehemiah Gilyard was a funny, caring student with an “infectious smile” at Flagler Palm Coast High School, where he played football and ran track. He was driving alone on the night of Feb. 14, when he crashed into the trees on the side of County Road 302 and died. He was 18.
“I, as well as our entire Flagler Schools community mourn the loss of Nehemiah Gilyard, a young man taken too soon from his family this weekend,” Flagler Schools Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt wrote in a tweet.
FPC football coach Travis Roland tweeted the following on Feb. 15: “How do you explain the unexplainable to your teenage players. Especially when hours before you find out the unthinkable, the defensive staff was talking about how he was about to have a breakout year as a senior! We Love You! Rest With Him”
Families were informed that grief counselors would be available on campus for students who needed someone to talk to.
Several students shared their memories with the Palm Coast Observer.
“He gave off good vibes and was always making any situation funny,” said Jacob Abbas, a 16-year-old FPC student. “That was my brother.”
“No matter where we were or who we were with, he would always just have that positive aura surrounding him,” said another student, Michael Crockett. “No one had a more infectious smile. … Countless times I’ve seen him go out of his way for those he cares about.”
Harlem Caldwell, now a college student, remembers Gilyard as a teammate on the FPC track team. “Even in his down moments he was always smiling,” Caldwell recalled. “I never saw him upset, always made others happy, and he was just a goofball.”
Dylan Babushkin, a junior football player at FPC, said Gilyard was one of his first friends at FPC.
“He treated me like family from the start and could make you laugh no matter the circumstances,” he said. “He always had a positive attitude and outlook on life.”
Teammate Landon Gonzalez added: “He filled the room with his smile and always put others over himself.”
Jaylen Collins, another teammate at FPC, said, “It’s rare to find such a good soul who can remain humble and handle business in a sport while dealing with real world problems and still keep a smile on your face. … I'll never forget him randomly doing back flips while we all hyped him up. Also the times where we would just vibe, sit, laugh, and talk about our futures.”
“He was a real life brother to me that I never actually had,” said Malik Daley, 16. “You never really saw another side of Neo but the good side.”
Matanzas football coach Matt Forrest was among many to express condolences to family and teammates on Twitter. He wrote: “Losing a young student athlete is never easy and always difficult to understand. We are praying for peace during this tough and emotional time. #FlaglerStrong”