Friends and family gather for football player's funeral

About 2,500 people attended Ronald Rouse's funeral.

Hartsville High School football player, Ronald Rouse, has been laid to rest. His funeral took place Wednesday afternoon at the Hartsville High School gym.

At 3:30 p.m., a half hour before the funeral started, 500 people had already started gathering in the gym. In all, about 2,500 people turned out to say goodbye.

Rouse, 18, collapsed during a game last Friday night. He was pronounced dead at the hospital from complications of a congenital enlarged heart.

Dignitaries like State Senators Gerald Malloy and Jay Lucas, who represent Hartsville, are among those who attended the funeral along with Darlington County School Board members and the district's superintendent, Rainey Knight.

Rouse's teammates were seated in a special reserved section. They signed a large picture of Ronald. That picture will be given to his family.

Also on hand, about a dozen players from Crestwood High School. That's the team Hartsville was playing Friday night when Rouse collapsed. On Monday, Crestwood announced the second half of Friday night's football game would not be played, giving Hartsville a 27-7 win.

One of the speakers at the funeral was Hartsville Head Coach Jeff Calabrese. He said Rouse made people laugh with his deep voice.

Calabrese went on to say #74 changed many lives with his strong Christian beliefs. The coach said even in death, Rouse brought people together.

Wednesday night, Calabrese released a letter about the loss of Ronald Rouse. To read that letter,click here.

Students are selling "Rouse bands," red wristbands, and t-shirts honoring Rouse to raise money to help the family with funeral expenses.

The school is also retiring Rouse's #74 football jersey, but not the #74. It is school practice not to retire a player's number. Rouse's jersey will be framed and hung in a place of honor at the school, according to Audrey Childers, the spokesperson for the Darlington County School District.

To honor Rouse at Friday night's game against Manning, his teammates will wear helmet stickers with Rouse's #74 on them as well as white undershirts with a design honoring Rouse under their jerseys.

The 18-year-old was laid to rest in a private burial.

Watch a tribute to Rouse by WPDE Sports Director Rich Chrampanis

Watch video of the Loris Lions dedicating their game ball to Rouse and the Red Foxes

Watch raw video of an interview with one of Rouse's teammates