Tennessee State freshman football player William Wayne Jones III caught a pass early in practice on Wednesday and threw it back to the defensive backs coach, a routine scene that plays out thousands of times in football practices around the country every day.
Jones collapsed after throwing the ball. Less than two hours later, he was pronounced dead.
Tennessee State is still unclear what happened in Jones' sudden and tragic death.
"This is a very tragic day for our entire Tennessee State University community and we are devastated by the sudden passing of this young man," said Teresa Phillips, TSU Athletics Director. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this very difficult time. Our University and our football team are hurting as we feel the loss of one of our own. As a team and a family we will grieve alongside the family and do everything we can to help support the family through this very difficult time."
Coach Rod Reed told The Tennessean that he did not know of any pre-existing conditions that Jones had. Wednesday's practice had just started and it was a light workout, in helmets but not full gear. When trainers got to him after he collapsed, he had no pulse and was unconscious.
Jones, a walk-on defensive back who was redshirting this year, collapsed at about 4 p.m. He was rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead at 5:50 p.m. He was 19 years old.
"He was a real feisty little guy and the kind of kid you want on your football team," Reed said [according to The Tennessean]. "We never had any problems out of him. We were going to redshirt him because we thought he had some talent and could help us on down the road."
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