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News of coach killed in Parkland shooting hit former player 'sideways'

As the investigation into the Parkland High School mass shooting continues in South Florida, more people in the Jacksonville, Florida, area with connections to the school are coming forward to talk about the people they lost, including like assistant football coach Aaron Feis.

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“Hearing the stories about Coach Feis, it just, it just totally hit me sideways,” Kaden Culpepper said.

Feis is being remembered as a hero after he shielded students from the shooter and was fatally shot. Culpepper spent four years with Feis and said he was not surprised by his heroism. 

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“He just brought so much joy to all of us, the whole school. Coach Feis was the man,” he said.

Culpepper moved to Parkland with his mother at a young age. When he got older, he knew he wanted to play football but didn’t have a lot of money for equipment.

“(Feis) said, ‘Don’t even worry about it. I’ll take care of you,’” Culpepper said.

And he meant it.

>> Florida shooting heroes: 3 coaches, teachers gave lives for students

“Taking me to practice, and picking me up for practice and paying every school year for me to play football out of his own pocket,” Culpepper said.

Culpepper said Feis saw potential in everyone and inspired them to do their best, on and off the field.

“He saw something in me and so many of my brothers on the football team that we didn’t even realize. He brought out the fight in us, he brought out the best in us, and he brought out the men in us. If I didn’t meet Coach Feis, and I didn’t play football for him, I wouldn’t be here,” Culpepper said.

Culpepper doesn’t just admire Coach Feis. He also plans to follow in his footsteps, by becoming a teacher and coach.

“Having an idol like Coach Feis, I can do the same thing,” he said.

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