‘Speechless’: Tragedy strikes LBCC football team again with passing of Brent Le Roux

Long Beach City College football coach Brett Peabody is a man in control.

Peabody is an accomplished coach who’s turned the Vikings program around, from an 0-10 record the year before he arrived to a 44-21 record with three conference championships since. He’s got more muscles than many of his players and he’s a forceful leader with a big laugh and a loud voice. On Thursday morning, though, Peabody had none of the familiar characteristics of his personality at hand as he struggled to wrap his mind around yet another tragedy befalling his Vikings.

Vikings lineman Brent Le Roux passed away earlier this week, the fourth LBCC player or recent alumnus to die in the last 24 months.

“I’m speechless,” said Peabody through tears. “I don’t even know what to say. I don’t know what it is. I wish it would just stop. Seeing young men die before their parents… I’m a father of three. It’s just brutal.”

For a third straight year, Peabody and his assistants will order memorial decals to affix to the back of their team’s helmets. In 2017, they ordered stickers in honor of Tim Johnson, who died after complications from a car crash. A year to the day later, they ordered stickers to commemorate the life of Guy Alford, who was gunned down in North Long Beach. In January of this year, they lost former safety Bryce Turner to a heart attack while he was home training between semesters playing at Cal.

The LBCC football team prays together, last season, before a game dedicated to Guy Alford, one of the school’s four current or recent players to die in the past 24 months. Photo by John Fajardo.

“Car accident, heart attack, shootings, this…” said Peabody, his voice trails off. “You don’t get used to giving the team the news, you don’t get used to any of it.”

Le Roux was rehabbing a recent surgery and is believed to have died of an accidental overdose, according to Peabody. The coroner has yet to determine a cause of death.

Le Roux grew up in Australia playing rugby, and came to America his senior year of high school, playing football for the first time that year at St. John Bosco. Peabody described Le Roux as a “gentle giant,” a 6-foot-5 behemoth who was kind and generous with his teammates off the field.

“My guy was always positive and showing love,” said LBCC teammate Ahmir Wilson. “He went through so much during the past couple years and you wouldn’t know it because he consistently showed up to grind, no matter the situation. I can’t believe this news and I’m truly stunned.”

It has been an unbearably tragic and painful year for the Le Roux family. Brent’s father passed away last July due to a heart attack, after which his younger brother committed suicide. Going beyond a coach/player relationship, Peabody has looked after Le Roux like a father for the last year.

“I’ve always been really worried about him because he’s dealt with a lot of trauma,” said Peabody. “We spoke on Sunday and he was so optimistic about his future, he was ready to start rehabbing his shoulder, he was moving into a new apartment.”

The two were very close and grew closer as Le Roux struggled through the ups and downs of the last 12 months, even living with the Peabodys for a week after his father passed away. Le Roux spent Thanksgiving and Easter at the Peabody household as well.

“My family loved him, my son looked up to him, my wife loved him, my dogs loved him,” said Peabody.

Current and former teammates pledged on social media to dedicate their upcoming season to Le Roux and to take inspiration from the way he faced up against the challenges of life.

Former LBCC lineman Jeremiah Paulo, now at Kennesaw State, tweeted, “To my LBCC brothers, take care of each other! Too many of us gone! This one hurt different, he went through trials and tribulations on the daily basis and still had a smile on his face. His strength is something we should strive for.”

For Peabody, losing another player is a cause of questions and despair. The usual early August preparations for the upcoming season have fallen into the background in the wake of Le Roux’s death.

“I’m just walking around in a daze right now,” said Peabody. “We were really close. I was very invested—I saw a lot of me in him, I was a real mess when I was his age. I just don’t know what to say.”

Services for Le Roux will be held at the St. John Bosco chapel in the near future; no specific date has been given.

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Mike and JJ go together like mac and cheese: they’re best friends, business partners and Long Beach sports experts. They’ve been working together for over a decade covering Long Beach local sports and now run the562.org, a community-funded nonprofit media outlet.