Stetson University football player collapses on practice field, dies

Nicholas Adam Blakely complained of feeling ill before he collapsed

DeLAND, Fla. – A 19-year-old Stetson University football player died Monday after collapsing during practice, officials said.

Nicholas Adam Blakely, a sophomore defensive back and accounting major from Lawrenceville, Georgia, complained that he was not feeling well shortly after practice began, school officials said.

A DeLand police incident report said Blakely was practicing at the Stetson Athletic Training Center at 401 E. Minnesota Ave. when he began feeling dizzy and light-headed. His pulse became very rapid, so he was pulled from practice, the report said. Blakely was drinking water when he collapsed and had what appeared to be a seizure, officials said.

A trainer who called 911 said Blakely was unresponsive and struggling to breathe. 

CPR was performed on Blakely, who was taken to Florida Hospital DeLand, where he died, officials said. 

Coach Roger Hughes said Monday's practice was light and didn't involve any hitting. He said trainers monitored over Blakely when he said he wasn't feeling well. He described the teen's death as a tragedy.

“The effort to save Nick was nothing less than heroic. Care could not have been provided more quickly. EMTs were on the scene within six minutes,” Hughes said.

Blakely had no known medical conditions that could have caused his sudden death, according to Hughes.

Players are tested for the sickle cell trait and while Blakely's results weren't immediately available, Hughes said he was tested and he wouldn't have been on the field if he had that trait or any other complications in his medical history.

Teammates Gaven DeFilippo and Dre Long described Blakely as a competitive, committed player with an infectious smile and fiery spirit.

“Beyond a teammate, he was always competitive ... He was energetic, always having a good time, always had a smile on his face. He was a good friend,” Long said. 

The focus now is healing from the loss, coming together as a community to honor Blakely and making sure his family's immediate needs are taken into consideration, school officials said.

Blakely's mother has requested that her son be buried in his No. 37 jersey.

Since Blakely was a redshirt player last season, he never officially played in a game for Stetson. The team has its season opener Saturday at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. The Hatters' home opener is Sept. 16.

"The city of DeLand joins the Stetson University community in mourning the loss of Nick Blakely. Our hearts go out to his family, teammates, coaching staff, faculty, students and everybody who called Nick a friend. It is such a tragic loss for the community," DeLand Mayor Robert F. Apgar said.

Teammates took to social media to remember Blakely.

Grief counselors will be available at Stetson to assist students.

An informal gathering of friends and colleagues was held at noon Tuesday at Allen Hall, the school said.

Stetson University President Dr. Wendy B. Libby released a statement Monday night.

"It is with great sadness that I inform the university that Nicholas Adam Blakely, a 19-year-old sophomore accounting major from Lawrenceville, Georgia, passed away this evening.

"Nicholas, known as Nick to his friends, is a member of the Stetson University football team and was on the sidelines shortly after practice began this evening when he complained of not feeling well and collapsed. Nick was transported by ambulance to Florida Hospital DeLand.

"Nick's parents have been notified. Coach Roger Hughes has informed the football team. Athletic Director Jeff Altier is informing members of the Athletic Department, and the university is contacting Nick's faculty.

"Counselors have been on hand at the Athletic Training Center with the football team.  If you need counseling, you can contact them at (386) 822-8900 from 8:00 AM until 4:30 PM.  If you are in urgent need to speak to a counselor outside of those hours, you can contact Public Safety at (386) 822-7300 and ask to speak with the on-call counselor.  You can also contact the Chaplains http://www.stetson.edu/administration/chaplain/

"More information will follow shortly regarding a memorial. An informal gathering of Nick's friends and colleagues will be held at Allen Hall Tuesday, August 29, at noon."


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