Cooper family: Time to begin healing

Updated: March 7, 2009, 1:19 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The family of NFL player Marquis Cooper says it has decided to discontinue its search for the 26-year-old man and two friends still missing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Cooper
Cooper

In a statement released Friday, Bruce Cooper said his family is beginning the healing process, and needs time to be together and remember his son. Cooper described his son as a great father and husband.

"We are staying prayerful," Bruce Cooper said, according to The Tampa Tribune. "One day the pain will be a little less burdensome. Right now, we just need time to be together and remember Marquis.

"Many of you have asked about a memorial or prayer service for Marquis. The family has decided to forgo any such service and asks instead that all of you memorialize Marquis in your hearts and thoughts."

The football player was aboard a 21-foot fishing boat last Saturday evening when it capsized in rough seas. Only former University of South Florida player Nick Schuyler was found alive. Marquis Cooper, Corey Smith and Will Bleakley remain missing.

The Coast Guard called off its search on Tuesday, but the Cooper family had remained optimistic, enlisting private pilots and charter boats to continue the search.

"We want to thank everyone in Arizona, Tampa and all over the United States for their thoughts, well-wishes, prayers and volunteer efforts on our behalf," Bruce Cooper said, according to the report. "We especially want to thank the members of the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Air Force, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife agency for their extraordinary and courageous efforts to rescue Marquis and his friends."

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, which is investigating the accident, met with the Smith family to update them on the progress of their report, FWC spokesman Gary Morsse told The Tampa Tribune. An investigation usually takes four to six weeks to complete.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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