BOWLING GREEN - A freshman trying out for Bowling Green State University's football team died yesterday after becoming ill only 10 minutes after his first practice began.
Aaron Richardson, 18, a graduate of Sandusky's Perkins Township High School, was pronounced dead at 4:38 p.m. in Wood County Hospital.
Dr. Douglas Hess, the Wood County coroner, ordered an autopsy. He said he did not know if the victim had any previous health problems.
Mr. Richardson is the second BGSU athlete in the last two years to die during practice or competition.
On Nov. 5, 2002, women's soccer player Leslie Dawley collapsed and died during a Mid-American Conference tournament game played at Cochrane Field, next to Doyt Perry Stadium.
Mr. Richardson had taken part in a warm-up drill for about 10 minutes at the start of the 3 p.m. practice when he talked to one of BGSU's full-time trainers and said he did not feel well.
He had been running "gassers" - sprints back and forth across the width of the practice field adjacent to Perry stadium - with other members of the Falcons' team. He had not been involved in any contact drills.
Mr. Richardson and the trainer walked back to the football locker room, which located under the stadium's stands.
J.D. Campbell, BGSU's assistant athletic director for communications, said that while Mr. Richardson was in the locker room, the training staff called 911.
Mr. Campbell said none of the BGSU coaches or players noticed anything out of the
ordinary until an ambulance pulled up at the stadium several hundred yards away from the practice field.
At the time, they were not aware it was for Mr. Richardson. They did not learn of his death until after the practice ended about 5 p.m., he said.
Citing privacy issues, Mr. Campbell said additional details on any treatment Mr. Richardson received in the locker room were not available.
Team physicians are not present at practices, but it is customary for two full-time certified trainers to be on hand to deal with injuries or assist players needing medical attention.
The temperature at 3 p.m. yesterday at Findlay Airport and Metcalf Field in Lake Township was 82 degrees, with a relative humidity of 52 percent.
But the dew point - 63 degrees - with the air temperature at both places is "a more accurate way of expressing moisture in the air," said Martin Thompson of the National Weather Service office in Cleveland.
Dew points in the lower 60s and air temperatures in the lower 80s "would tend to make it feel moderately humid, and that will vary from person to person. The closer the dew point is to the air temperature, the more humid it will be, " Mr. Thompson said.
Many were stunned by Mr. Richardson's death.
"Something like this just hits you so hard that you just can't make sense of it," BGSU offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa said last night as he held his head in his hands and brushed back tears. "Injuries are part of the game, but life-and-death - that's not supposed to be part of football."
Mr. Richardson was one of nine walk-ons to join the BGSU team yesterday.
Walk-ons customarily are added to the team after the season begins, and work primarily with the scout team, preparing the starting units for the next opponent. The Falcons (1-1) do not play this week.
Mr. Richardson was a standout athlete at Perkins, where he became the school's first male athlete to compete in four events at the state track meet. He finished second in the 200 meters last spring, fifth in the long jump, and also ran on two relay teams.
He was on the football team for all four of his years at Perkins and started both at cornerback and at tailback.
Because he was a walk-on and a new addition to the team, the Falcon coaches and players knew little about Mr. Richardson, a 5-foot, 9-inch 180-pounder who played tailback in high school.
Rocky Farlow, the football coach at Perkins, said last night that Mr. Richardson "was a kid everyone wanted to have around."
An emotional Mr. Farlow added: "He was a kid I have a lot of feeling for because of the way he blossomed" as a player and a person.
"He always had a big, bright smile. That's what I'll remember the most," Mr. Farlow added.
Perkins varsity track head coach Shane Burrows agreed.
"He's the last kid you would expect to be talking about with something like this," Mr. Burrows said. "He looked like an athlete. Aaron wasn't the tallest kid, but he worked hard at building up his body. He had chances to go to smaller schools and probably play right away, but he wanted to play at Bowling Green. Aaron was always a true believer in his skills. He never backed down from the opportunity to prove himself."
"It is so shocking," Mr. Burrows said. "I just saw Aaron Friday night when he came home for the football game. He seemed so excited about trying to make the team at Bowling Green and maybe getting a scholarship. He had a plan, and I just wish we could have seen his life play out."
Adam Righi, of Sandusky who is a student at Heidelberg College in Tiffin, played football with Mr. Richardson since seventh grade.
"I'll miss him a lot," he said. "He's been a really, really great friend."
He said his friend's dream was to play football in college and then pursue a professional career in the National Football League.
"He was real excited about it, to get his pads on and start playing," Mr. Righi said.
Gloria Gentry, of Sandusky, whose son played football, basketball, and ran track with Mr. Richardson, said he was a very polite and a personable teenager with a lot of friends, adding that he was a gifted athlete.
She said he was one of the fastest runners in track.
"We're just all in shock. We can't believe it's happened," Mrs. Gentry said. "He's been an athlete and competed all his life. We can't believe it's real," she said.
Blade staff writer Elizabeth A. Shack contributed to this report.
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