Giving their friend one last sendoff before a crosstown rivalry game, the Valencia High School football team stood by the family of Pedro “Javi” Roman during the former Viking’s funeral service Thursday.
Meeting shortly after 10 a.m., the team hopped on a bus, clad in white shoes, black pants and purple polo shirts with Roman’s No. 21 emblazoned on them, and drove out to the Forest Lawn funeral grounds in North Hollywood.
The players, who arrived on the team’s yellow bus, drove Roman’s ashes a short distance to hand them off to Roman’s mother, and then escorted her and the family up to the gravesite. Once the ashes were put in their final resting place, the players took turns throwing a yellow rose on the urn as a final goodbye.
They then returned to a home in Acton for their pregame meal ritual.
“We’re here representing like a family, because everyone here fought with him and played with him,” said Tristan Wood, one of Roman’s best friends and a teammate, before he hopped onto the bus across the street from Valencia’s campus Thursday morning. “We’re just going to go out there and show some love and support out there to his family, because they’re going through a rough time right now.”
Roman’s other teammates agreed with Wood that their presence at the funeral would be important for them and the family of their defense’s former heart and soul.
“We’re remembering one of our good friends, one of the most energetic and happy persons I’ve ever known in my life,” said Roman Duran, a junior at Valencia. “And I just think that it’s good to remember someone as good as him, but also expect that he’s gone but not lost forever.”
“Also, we just want to support his family because they’re going through a lot of hardships right now,” said Keller O’Steen, another junior.
Thursday’s effort was not the first time the Valencia football team came together on behalf of supporting Roman and his family. In 2019, after he received his acute lymphoblastic leukemia diagnosis, his teammates all shaved their heads in order to mirror their friend’s hairstyle after he underwent chemotherapy.
Fundraisers, blood drives and T-shirts would be made, with the No. 21 and Roman’s name highlighted somewhere on the gear or during the event. Roman celebrated his 17th birthday party outside the hospital and in remission in December, and a few dozen cars filled with his classmates drove by their friend, honking, waving and handing his stepfather gifts to take to him.
And when his cancer returned and Roman succumbed to his cancer Feb. 1, hundreds of his classmates, teammates and supporters in the community appeared at a vigil.
Following the meal on Thursday, the Vikings once again gathered together to present Roman’s mother with her son’s game-day jersey. They then packed their bags, and took off for what many of them described as “Javi’s Last Game.”
“Whenever you go through something like this, it’s about what you leave behind,” said Pedro’s stepdad, Bruce Marcotte. “I think the love, the appreciation and just the (proof) of how many people he touched, that makes you feel some sort of comfort.”
Pedro’s mother, Lizette Marcotte, added: “That just gave me some peace.”