ORONO — University of Maine football coaches said Wednesday that they were unaware of any medical condition that might have contributed to the death of freshman player Darius Minor.

Minor, an 18-year-old from Locust Grove, Virginia, collapsed and died during a supervised light workout at Alfond Stadium on Tuesday afternoon. He is the first player in the 126-year history of the UMaine football program to die during a workout on campus.

University officials said they do not know the cause of Minor’s death. His body was sent to the Office of Chief Medical Examiner in Augusta, they said.

Jesse Lohr, Minor’s football coach at Orange County High in Orange, Virginia, told the Press Herald that Minor had been healthy other than a knee injury that cost him his junior season. He also starred on Orange County High soccer team. Minor, who was 6 feet tall and weighed 170 pounds, was projected to be a defensive back for the Black Bears.

UMaine head coach Joe Harasymiak said Minor, like other incoming players, needed to pass two physicals in order to participate in football activities.

“I know to work out here, not only do we get a physical at home, but he has to pass a physical at Maine,” Harasymiak said at a news conference Wednesday. “And he did that.”

University officials established a timeline for Tuesday’s incident:

Strength coach Jon Lynch took a group of 17 freshman to the football stadium in shorts and T-shirts for a workout at 1 p.m. that was to include pushing a weighted sled. After a five-minute warm-up and a short water break, the group went through one set of the drill.

During another four-minute water break, Minor tapped Lynch on the shoulder and said he felt like he was going to pass out, Harasymiak said.

Seconds later, Minor collapsed. Lynch and some players carried Minor toward the field house to get him off the stadium’s hot artificial turf. Lynch contacted the training staff – “which was on scene at Darius’ side almost immediately,” said Harasymiak – and a 911 call was made. But efforts to resuscitate him failed.

University officials said members of the coaching and training staffs did everything they could to save Minor’s life.

“Our staff was incredible,” said interim athletic director Jim Settele, who was in a leadership meeting when Minor collapsed. “We knew we had folks on the scene doing their best to revive Darius.”

This was the first year Maine has had its freshman class in early for workouts. The final three days of the workouts scheduled for this week were canceled and all members of the team were sent home. They will report back next Tuesday for the start of training camp.

Settele said the university’s compliance department “conducted an informal investigation (about Tuesday’s workout). Their conclusion is that appropriate protocols were followed. We will take a closer look at the entire event to see if there’s anything that we could improve on. We need to learn from this experience.”

Harasymiak was not at the workout Tuesday. He was returning to Maine from Baltimore after attending the annual Colonial Athletic Association Media Day.

Harasymiak choked up several times during the media conference Wednesday, and said that no player will wear the Minor’s No. 39 for the next four years. Minor, a political science major who had received a full scholarship from the Black Bears, had been at UMaine for the last three weeks for freshman workouts and was taking a class.

“That number will be his, because it is his,” Harasymiak said. “He’ll live with us for the next four years, when he will have graduated.”

Harasymiak said that grief counselors were available for team members both Tuesday night and Wednesday at an 8 a.m. team meeting. Settele said that the upperclassmen voluntarily stayed in the dorms with the freshmen Tuesday night to make sure they were all right. “They rallied around each other,” Settele said.

Harasymiak spoke by phone with Minor’s mother in Virginia on Wednesday morning. “She’s a strong woman and that’s ultimately why Darius was the way he was.”

Minor, in addition to displaying exceptional skills during workouts, had become a very popular player on the Black Bears in his two weeks here.

“He had one of the best smiles in that freshman class,” Harasymiak said. “When you got him to smile, got him to open up, you could truly see who he was. Just a very hard worker who wanted to do his best. This was a dream for him.”

Those who knew Minor in high school said he was a special student-athlete.

“He was just a great kid in the hallways,” Orange County Principal Kelly Guempel said. “He was always smiling. We’re devastated. He just lit up the room when he walked in. He was positive, happy and carried himself with such maturity. He was a great kid to have in your school.”

Guempel said the high school provided grief counseling for members of the football team Tuesday night at the school’s field house. The team had been together for a preseason camp when news of Minor’s death filtered to them.

“A lot of community members came too,” Guempel said. “He was like a superstar leaving here, a lot of kids looked up to him. He was that destined-for-success type of kid.”

Minor missed his junior football season after he injured a knee, tearing the ACL. He returned as a senior to catch 57 passes for 763 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also was the team’s kicker and, in the spring, led the soccer team in scoring.

“He was an exceptional athlete,” said Lohr, Minor’s high school football coach. “He had that star quality to him. It was a joy to coach him these last four years.”

Lohr said Minor didn’t attract a lot of college offers because of his knee injury. According to a story in the Daily Progress in Charlottesville, Virginia, Minor received walk-on offers from Virginia Tech and James Madison after he ran a 4.38 40-yard dash in a Rivals camp. But he told the Daily Progress that he chose the Black Bears because “they play with a chip on their shoulder. They come from a similar background as me and they feel like they have something to prove.”

Lohr saw that underdog look in Minor. “He had aspirations, he had goals, he had dreams,” Lohr said. “He had the God-given ability to do some things. … He’s going to be missed.”

Harasymiak said members of the team, both coaches and players, would go to Virginia for services, whenever they might be. He wasn’t thinking about football yet.

“This weekend is to be there for Darius, his mom and his family,” he said. “I told the team this morning, this is way bigger than football. This is the most adverse situation we’ll ever be in together. And if our culture is where it needs to be as a team, it will pull us through it.

“Football’s a bonus. Everything we do now is for Darius and his mom.”

Contact Mike Lowe at 791-6422 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

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