TAMPA — None of the players on the Robinson High School football team will be wearing the number 75 during Friday night’s game.
Instead, the players will wear the number on their helmets this season in honor of former teammate Joshua Rankin, who was killed during a fight in Ybor City over the weekend.
“Former RHS athlete Josh Rankin will be sorely missed,” the school’s football team said in a Twitter post Sunday. “The team’s prayers are with his family & friends.”
Rankin, 21, was a senior captain and offensive lineman on the team. He also competed on the school’s wrestling team before he graduated in 2010.
“He always stuck up for other kids,” said Tommy Montero, Rankin’s uncle and a teacher and coach at the school. “He defended them, protected them. He had a big heart.”
Joseph Vincent Amore, 21, of Lakeland, is charged with stabbing Rankin to death and was being held at the Hillsborough County Jail without bail.
According to arrest reports, a fight broke out between six people — including Amore and Rankin — at E. Fifth Avenue and N 16th Street about 2:45 a.m. Saturday. During the scuffle, Rankin was stabbed once in the chest and twice in the throat. William Madeiros, 21, tried to help Rankin and was stabbed in the shoulder. His wounds were not life-threatening, police said.
Witnesses identified Amore in a photo lineup, reports show. After he was stopped by police, Amore admitted that he was in the fight and used a knife, police said. He had the knife in his right pants leg and handed it over to police, according to the report.
No other details have been released.
“I had to go down (with three other uncles and his father) and identify that it was him,” Montero said. “When we were driving down there I still held out hope that maybe they had it wrong, maybe he was somewhere safe and hiding. But they showed us his picture, and it was him.”
Rankin loved spending time with family, Montero said. He used to take Montero’s 7-year-old daughter to the movies.
Montero said when he first heard the news about Rankin’s death he thought it was a “terrible prank.”
“I went to bed at 9 p.m. the night before knowing he was alive and when I woke up he was gone,” he said. “It hasn’t sunk in. Unbelievable.”
A visitation for Rankin is scheduled from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Blount & Curry Funeral Home, 605 S. MacDill Ave., with the funeral at 1 p.m. Friday at First Baptist Church of Port Tampa, 8306 Interbay Blvd.
Tribune reporter Scott Purks contributed to this report.