Oregon State freshman Fred Thompson died of an apparent heart attack Wednesday night in the university's Dixon Recreation Center. According to a release from the university, Thompson — a 6-foot-4, 317-pound defensive tackle from Richmond, Calif. — collapsed while playing basketball and was transported to nearby Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. He was four days shy of his 20th birthday.
Thompson signed with Oregon State in February 2010 out of Oakland Tech High School, but suffered a shoulder injury last spring and only recently enrolled for the winter term as a "greyshirt" — a player who's unlikely to play right away and delays enrollment to preserve an extra season of eligibility. He was practicing with the team at the end of the season, however, and was expected to compete for playing time in 2012. Last year, Rivals rated Thompson as a three-star defensive tackle out of high school and one of the top 100 California prospects in the 2010 recruiting class.
Thompson is the second 19-year-old football player to die of a heart problem in the last two weeks, following Arkansas tight end Garrett Uekman, who was found dead in his dorm room on Nov. 20, the victim of a previously undiagnosed heart condition. Two other Division I players, Alabama offensive lineman and Oklahoma linebacker Austin Box, died earlier this year of drug-related causes, and the body of Purdue running back Sean Matti was found in an Indiana lake in July.
All are tragic, and another 19-year-old dropping dead of a heart attack for no apparent reason is an especially senseless kind of tragedy. Our condolences remain with their families and teammates.