'A blessing we will never forget'
Florida State remembers fallen teammate Darling
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said Thursday he was thankful to have Devaughn Darling on the team, if only for a few months.
"It was a blessing we will never forget," Bowden told nearly 1,000 mourners at a memorial service. "Life is like a vapor, it's here and then it's gone."
Darling, 18, died Monday after a strenuous offseason workout with teammates -- including twin brother Devard -- at the school's football complex. An autopsy Tuesday did not reveal a cause of death and it will be at least another month before lab tests are back that could help the medical examiner determine why the freshman died suddenly.
"We ask why ... why?" Bowden said, speaking behind a podium decorated with a garnet and gold floral arrangement of Darling's uniform No. 53. "God must've wanted another angel. And he got one."
Darling's family and teammates were at the service with hundreds of other students and teachers in an auditorium brightened with flower arrangements from the universities of Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Clemson, where Bowden's son Tommy is coach.
Linebacker Brian Allen, one of the Seminoles' captains last season, said the tragedy gives everyone another chance to become better people.
"It reminds us to tell other people we love them and that they matter in our lives," Allen said. "Tell them every chance you get. You may not get another chance."
Team chaplain Clint Purvis shared with the audience portions of a letter Darling was given by his mother, Wendy Smithe of Houston, the day she dropped the twins off at Florida State last summer to begin their college careers.
"I will surely miss the prayers, hugs and kisses," the note read. "You have been a well mannered child.
"I know God has blessed you and Devard. Do not forget the presence of the Lord," she wrote. "Mommy is very proud of you."
Purvis then asked the players to rededicate themselves to the Lord and look out for Devard Darling.
"It'll be your responsibility to carry his burden," Purvis said.
After the service, Bowden said he had already spoken with Devard Darling and told him to take whatever time he needs away from football.
"We'll be there when he's ready," Bowden said.
The coach also said he would re-evaluate the off-season conditioning program, known as "mat drills."
"The circumstances of this one ... make everyone do a little soul-searching," he said. "We've got to do whatever it takes, but not at the risk of a life."