It may be weeks before the cause of death is known for Darius Minor, the freshman football player who collapsed Tuesday during a seemingly routine practice at the University of Maine.
Minor, 18, a defensive back from Locust Grove, Virginia, died on Morse Field in Orono during an afternoon workout amid humid conditions.
The 6-foot, 170-pound Minor reportedly showed no signs of health problems and had passed a University of Maine physical. His former high school football coach, Jesse Lohr, said he was stunned.
“I am dumbfounded to what took place,” said Lohr, who has coached at Orange County High School for nearly 20 years. “Because this kid I knew could run for days.”
Minor, a team captain during his senior year of high school, played both offense and defense for the Orange County football team. He also played basketball and spring soccer for the Hornets.
“I feel like he was in really good shape,” Lohr said.
University of Maine head football coach Joe Harasymiak during a Wednesday afternoon press conference on campus outlined the events surrounding Minor’s death.
Harasymiak wasn’t at Tuesday’s workout as he attended the Colonial Athletic Association preseason football media day in Baltimore, Maryland, but he said he had spoken with several people who were on hand and also met with the team at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
“At approximately 1 o’clock yesterday we had a lift, a required lift with the freshmen that we had done the previous two weeks as well. We started with a warm-up for about five minutes, which is preceded by a water break in which coach (Jon) Lynch, our certified strength and conditioning coach, will go over the exercises that take place,” he said.
“We did that, we got through the first set, which was sled pushes which we had done the previous two weeks. Once that set was completed, there was a four-minute water break again in which Jon Lynch explains the next drill to take place,” he added.
“About halfway through (the water break), Darius tapped Jon on the shoulder and stated that he felt like he was going to pass out. Seconds later, Darius did pass out. Jon Lynch immediately contacted our training staff, which was on scene at Darius’ side almost immediately. Following that, a 911 call was made from Jon Lynch and the EMTs were on scene, again almost immediately,” he said.
“They tried to do everything they could to revive him but, in the end, there was nothing they could do,” Harasymiak added. “One of the hardest things for me is that I wasn’t here yesterday.”
Harasymiak said Minor had passed physical exams from his doctor in Virginia and from the team doctor at UMaine, Dr. Cameron Trubey.
When asked how the other players were handling it, Harasymiak said it was “tough” but that the freshman were doing “all right.”
Practices have been canceled and the team is scheduled to report for the first day of training camp next Tuesday.
“The biggest message from me to them was be emotional. You should cry, you should laugh. Be yourself. This isn’t about being a tough 18- or 22-year-old football player. That’s not what this is about. It’s about Darius and his family and about us coming together to celebrate his life,” Harasymiak said. “I told them this is way bigger than football. It is the most adverse situation we’ll ever be in together. If our culture is where it needs to be as a team, it will pull us through.”
The team has opted not to use No. 39 for the next four years because it was supposed to be Minor’s uniform number.
“Football is a bonus, you know. And everything we do right now is for Darius and his mom,” Harasymiak added.
UMaine interim athletic director Jim Settele said he was worried about how the freshmen on the team would react Tuesday night, but the upperclassmen went over to their dorm and spent the night with them.
“It was one of the most amazing professional things I’ve ever seen. They rallied around each other like the brotherhood they are. It was eye-watering watching them all come together,” Settele said.
Harasymiak called Minor’s mother, Charity Wines, on Wednesday morning.
“That is a strong woman, and you can tell why Darius turned out the way that he did,” Harasymiak said. “I let her know the football program and the university are here for her and them and anything they need. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”
Harasymiak said he and several members of the team plan to attend the funeral once details are finalized.
“Darius was good at football but so much more goes into it. He was a quiet kid, a little reserved, but he had one of the best smiles in the freshman class. He was a very hard worker. He wanted to do his best. This was a dream for him,” Harasymiak said, struggling to hold back tears. “This was so important to him.”
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