Tragedy rocked the Tennessee State Football program this week with the death of freshman William Wayne Jones III. A defensive back from Smyrna, Tenn., Jones collapsed during an early evening practice on Wednesday and was later pronounced dead at a Nashville hospital, according to a statement on school's athletics 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," said TSU Athletics Director Teresa Phillips, via the team's official website. "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."
The 19-year-old Jones had been participating in practice and working with defensive backs coach Ed Sanders when he collapsed, per CBS News. The Tennessee Tribune reported on Thursday that the cause of death was not initially known.
"He was doing a simple backpedal drill, he backpedaled, the ball was thrown to him, he caught it, then while bringing the ball back to the coach and he collapsed and that is as far as I can go into it," said Tennessee State head football coach Rod Reed during a press conference on Thursday, via WKRN-TV Nashville.
The Tennessee State Tigers (8-2) have no game scheduled for Week 11 of the college football season and plan to attend Jones' funeral services.
"I spoke with the dad and he was trying to make arrangements around the game," Reed told USA Today Sports. "That's what he thinks Wayne would have wanted. I applaud him for that, but I told him not to make any special concessions for us. Whatever the case may be we'll be there."
MORE FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee State freshman defensive back has collapsed during practice and later declared dead at a hospital.
William Wayne Jones, III, a freshman walk-on from Smyrna, Tenn., had just caught a ball and was throwing it to defensive backs coach Ed Sanders when he collapsed Wednesday afternoon. Trainers found the 19-year-old Jones unconscious with no pulse. He was taken to Baptist Hospital where he died at approximately 6:50 p.m. EST, according to a statement posted on the school's athletic website.
Athletic director Teresa Phillips called it a very tragic day for Tennessee State and said in a statement that the university community is devastated by Jones' death.
The Tigers (8-2) have an open date Saturday and conclude the regular season Nov. 17 at Tennessee Martin.