One of the mid-Atlantic's proudest prep football programs is in shock after Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha High standout senior offensive lineman Rico Webb died early Sunday morning, just hours after checking into a hospital with unspecified problems.
According to the Washington Post and D.C. ABC affiliate WUSA, among other outlets, Webb was "not feeling well" on Saturday night, so he and his father traveled to Howard County General Hospital in Columbia, Md. He passed away there just hours later, leaving behind hordes of admirers among DeMatha's huge student and alumni base.
"Rico was a fantastic kid," DeMatha football coach Elijah Brooks told the Post's Josh Barr. "Everyone on the team, the coaches and players, we loved him. He was a big kid. It was a tough morning for everybody."
The Post reported that an autopsy was performed on Webb Sunday, though the results of those tests may not be released for some time.
Webb, who stood 6-foot-7 and tipped the scales at a massive 365 pounds, was a promising prospect who had signed to play football on scholarship at Alabama State. He had also received a scholarship offer from Grambling State and was recruited by the likes of Wake Forest and Temple before agreeing to join the Hornets.
Now the Hornets will have to move on without Webb's help come fall 2012, with the departed 17-year-old leaving behind both the promise of a bright future and a sense of shock at the school that served as Webb's second home.
That was made clear at the DeMatha-Gonzaga WCAC boys basketball game Sunday night. According to WUSA, the DeMatha student section chanted "We love Rico," throughout the contest, from which DeMatha eventually emerged victorious, 45-42.
"Obviously the DeMatha community is in shock right now because something like this was so unexpected," Brooks told WUSA. "He was a great kid. Everyone is distraught."