Panthers fan dies in San Francisco just hours before Super Bowl

Photo courtesy: Ruby Rucker Cooper

LANCASTER, S.C. (WBTV) – William Rucker is a name most people know in Lancaster. As for the man, however, now they can say they once knew him.

“We’re just trying to keep it together and hold on,” William’s brother, Aaron Rucker said, adding that his brother was a well-known businessman, not only in Lancaster, but across the country.

“People loved him. William was a champion to the little man in Lancaster County,” Rucker said.

It was supposed to be the perfect trip. William, his nine-year-old son and other family members flew to San Francisco to watch their beloved Panthers play in Super Bowl 50.

Just hours before the game, they were at a pre-game party in Fisherman’s Wharf, when former Panther Keyshawn Johnson handed William’s son a football.

“He was just so happy. William celebrated in a way that just moved everybody,” Aaron said.

And then the unexpected happened.

William fell and collapsed moments after Keyshawn handed the football to his son, family says.

Nothing could be done. William died at just 44 years old in front of his son.

“Seeing his son happy, being around the Panthers, the fans of the Panthers and celebrating the Super Bowl, that just made William so happy and I think that probably triggered something,” Aaron said.

The family admitted to be very emotional when speaking to WBTV about the incident.

Now, a family and a community are missing a piece… but they say they find comfort in the way William went out.

“If he had to choose how he would want to die, other than hunting or fishing, that would have been the perfect ending for him, not us,” Aaron said.

William leaves behind his wife and two children – a 12-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son. Services will be held Saturday in Lancaster.

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