Tennessee State University freshman William Wayne Jones, III, who played defensive back on the school's popular football team the Tigers, suddenly collapsed during a non-contact practice drill on Wednesday (Nov. 8) - he was then found to have no pulse. After promptly being transported to Baptist Hospital, Jones was later pronounced dead. The 19-year-old's sudden death comes as a shock to many teammates, coaches, and peers, who were not aware if Jones had any pre-existing condition to explain such a tragic and unexpected loss.
According to reports, Jones had just thrown a pass to defensive backs coach Ed Sanders during a normal procedure practice drill when he suddenly passed out and fell to the ground on Wednesday afternoon. He was found unconscious and without a pulse, and later pronounced dead at approximately 5:50 p.m. at the local Nashville hospital.
Unfortunately, Jones is not the first young athlete to pass away in such tragic circumstances - many high school and college-aged players in various sports have suddenly died during competition or practice. Most of these deaths are attributed to an underlying heart condition such as cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart). This condition is typically found during childhood, but can easily be overlooked - especially since with athletes, the size of the heart can normally increase as endurance improves.
According to WebMD - "Cardiomyopathy, or heart muscle disease, is a type of progressive heart disease in which the heart is abnormally enlarged, thickened, and/or rigid. As a result, the heart muscle's ability to pump blood is weakened, often causing heart failure and the backup of blood into the lungs or rest of the body. The disease can also cause abnormal heart rhythms."
Teresa Phillips, TSU Athletic Director, offered her condolences through the TSU website: "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. 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."
Phillips insists more details will be made as soon as they become available. Thoughts go out to Jones' family and the TSU community during this time of tragic loss.