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Florida RB dies after collapse

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Posted: Wednesday July 25, 2001 7:20 PM
Updated: Thursday July 26, 2001 10:26 AM

Tragic loss
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Gators head coach Steve Spurrier reacts to the sudden death of incoming Florida freshman Eraste Autin. Start
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Incoming Florida freshman Eraste Autin died of complications related to heat stroke Wednesday, six days after collapsing and falling into a coma following a workout with teammates.

Autin fell unconscious just outside Florida Field last Thursday while jogging back to the locker room after one of the football team's voluntary summer conditioning sessions.

Friends of the family said he had a major heart attack, that his fever rose to 108 degrees, and that he slipped into a coma soon after he was taken to Shands Hospital.

"This is, by far, the saddest day ever for me as a coach and for our Gator teams as we have lost a wonderful, outstanding young man," Florida head coach Steve Spurrier said in a statement.

At the family's urging, Spurrier went to Orlando for a previously scheduled engagement at a Gators booster rally, and did not attend a news conference to discuss the death.

Athletic director Jeremy Foley spoke instead, a few hours after seeing Autin's family off at the Gainesville airport, where they caught a plane home to Lafayette, La.

"It's human nature to ask why," Foley said. "Why this young man? Why now? Why this? That's human nature, and those are the kind of things that keep you up at night."

Funeral arrangements had not been made as of Wednesday evening.

Autin is the second player in the state to die during an offseason workout.

Local Look
Freshman running back Eraste Autin died before he got the chance to experience life as a Gator, and before the Florida community had a chance to get to know him, writes Pat Dooley in The Gainesville Sun.  

In February, Florida State linebacker Devaughn Darling collapsed and died after a voluntary workout. Team physician Tom Haney said "cardiac arrhythmia" was the most likely reason for Darling's death. Teammates said Darling complained of chest pains during the fatal workout.

Foley said he called Florida State athletic director Dave Hart on Wednesday.

"He'd been through it," Foley said. "They were terrific tragedies on both campuses. He had some insight. But insight, advice -- it doesn't change what happened."

"The death of a young person is always a tragedy," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said in a statement. "While our thoughts and prayers are with his family, we know firsthand how difficult it will be on his teammates at Florida as well as the coaching and support staff. I want them to know our thoughts and prayers are with them also."

Autin is the 18th high school or college football player since 1995 to die from heat stroke, Dr. Fred Mueller of the University of North Carolina's sports medicine department said.

Unlike Darling, Autin didn't complain of any pain and showed "no signs of visible distress," according to Florida officials, who talked to players and staff present at the workouts.

"It was a hot day, and he's the hardest worker out of all of us," roommate and fellow freshman football player Lance Butler said this week.

Well aware that their program would be under scrutiny, Florida officials made available copies of the offseason workout regimen, and a long list of information regarding Autin's football activities this summer.

Foley said Autin passed a physical that all incoming freshman who enrolled in summer classes had to take July 2.

He collapsed after his 10th workout of the summer, all of which are overseen by athletic trainers and strength coaches, as is allowed by NCAA rules.

It was 88 degrees with 72 percent humidity -- normal summertime weather for Florida -- the afternoon Autin collapsed.

Water is readily available at several workout stations, and players are constantly reminded to replenish fluids.

Foley said Florida's offseason workout regimen will be reviewed because of the tragedy. But he refused to blame the conditioning program -- which is very much like programs all around the country -- for Autin's death.

"Yeah, you evaluate," Foley said. "Of course, you're going to do those things. But I have not identified anything we would have done differently in this situation."

Much like the NFL, voluntary workouts at the elite college level are voluntary in name only.

At Florida, most incoming freshmen enroll in summer school, go to class in the mornings and use the afternoon workout sessions to get a taste of what they'll face when practice starts with upperclassmen in August. The final freshman workout of this year is scheduled for Thursday.

"Some take it more seriously than others, but in my experience in my 10 years as athletic director, those workout programs are pretty serious to athletes because they want to achieve," Foley said. "That's the type of individuals they are. That's why they excel at a place like University of Florida, because they take it seriously."

A 6-foot-2, 250-pound fullback, Autin was widely considered one of the country's top high school players at his position last season. He was expected to challenge for a starting spot for the Gators this year. Autin rushed for 700 yards and scored 12 touchdowns last season at St. Thomas More High School in Lafayette.

Spurrier quoted Autin's freshman teammate Todd McCullough as saying Autin "was the most well-rounded 18-year-old he'd ever known."

This is the second tragedy to hit Florida in a little more than three years.

James McGriff, a prized recruit from Melbourne Palm Bay, drowned in April 1998 during "Senior Skip Day." A strong riptide pulled McGriff out to sea off Indialantic Beach. His body was found the next day.

Related information
Florida State LB Darling dies after workout
Florida freshman hospitalized in critical condition
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