By IVAN PERREIRA, ABC NEWS
(MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.) — George Floyd’s life had its highs and lows, but his friends and family said he was “a gentle giant.”
Floyd spent most of his life in Houston, Texas, and grew up in the Third Ward. While attending Yates High School, Floyd, who stood 6 feet, 6 inches tall, was a star tight end on the football team and played in the 1992 state championship.
Donnell Cooper, one of Floyd’s former classmates told The Associated Press that Floyd impressed everyone with his presence on the field and humility off it.
“Quiet personality but a beautiful spirit,” he told the AP.
Milton Carney, another longtime friend of Floyd, told ABC News affiliate KTRK was always gentle.
“Anybody who knows him will tell you he’s not confrontational,” he said.
Floyd was known by friends and family for his faith and dedication to his church community. Church leaders said he helped organize basketball charity events, bible study sessions and other related activities.
“You know, if he was here, he would say that he’s a man of God. He would stand on that firmly,” Courtney Ross, Floyd’s fiancée, told KTRK.
Former NBA player Stephen Jackson, who grew up in Texas not too far from Floyd, called him his twin. Even when Jackson’s athletic career soared, he said he kept in touch with Floyd.
“Every city, every team I played on, everywhere I was, we talked. He was excited. Everything I did,” Jackson told ABC News. “He was excited because the first thing he said was, ‘My twin is doing this. My twin is doing that.’ He lived through me. He knew he had the talent, he had the same skills and everything I had. … I just had more opportunity.”
In 2007, Floyd was charged with armed robbery and sentenced to five years in prison as part of a plea deal in 2009. Jackson said his friend moved to Minneapolis to start a new life and was working several jobs.
“He’d been through a lot of stuff in his life — a lot of stuff — and to make it out after you rehabilitate yourself and you’re intelligent enough to know I can’t go back to the same surroundings because it’s going to bring me back to the same spot,” he said.
Jovanni Thunstrom hired Floyd to work security at his Minneapolis restaurant Conga Latin Bistro and leased him a duplex apartment. Thunstrom told ABC News he was a friendly, hard worker who worked extra hours and was loved by the staff and regulars.
“This hurts. I loved him like a brother,” told ABC News.
Floyd had a daughter back in Houston and was planning on bringing her to Minneapolis, according to Thunstrom. Floyd and the rest of the restaurant’s staff were out of work since the coronavirus shut down the state’s restaurants.
Thunstrom said he last saw Floyd a week ago to collect rent and to talk about the restaurant’s reopening plans.
“It broke my heart,” he said of Floyd’s death.
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