Football player dies at practice

By James Kelley
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Incoming freshman collapses during afternoon workout

Incoming freshman football player McCollins Umeh died during a voluntary workout on campus yesterday.

Umeh, 18, arrived in Tucson this week with other new players for the workouts in preparation for the opening of the fall training camp in August, said UA athletics director Jim Livengood.

Umeh passed a physical earlier in the day on Tuesday, but collapsed 20 minutes into a 30-minute workout, said UA president Peter Likins.

"All our thoughts and prayers are with McCollins' parents," Livengood said. "There is no easy way to describe how devastating this tragedy is to the family and to the entire university community."

A press release said Umeh was treated on the scene and transported to University Medical Center by an emergency medical crew, and his time of death was listed at 2:24 p.m. Livengood said no further information is available.

A UAPD press release stated that officers responded to a "medical assist call" at the football practice field at 1:26 pm.

UAPD said that Umeh was receiving treatment when they arrived and was treated by Tucson Fire Department personnel. UAPD will release more information as it becomes available, if it does not compromise the case.

UAPD will handle the investigation and the Pima County Coroner's Office is responsible for determining the cause of death.

"Right now, we are in the preliminary investigatory stage; there are a lot of variables that are unknown and we will continue with the investigation of course, with the help of the medical examiners to try and determine what caused his death," said Sergeant Eugene V. Mejia. "Right now we're covering all of our bases from an investigative standpoint; they're preliminary stages. We're hoping to get a lot of answers once the medical examiner is done with the autopsy."

The gem of the Wildcats' recruiting class, Umeh was the UA's only four-star commitment on both the and recruiting web sites.

Umeh, a 6'3" 245-pound defensive end, gave a verbal commitment to football power Kansas State, but after UA head coach Mike Stoops was hired, decided to sign a letter of intent to play for Arizona on National Signing Day.

The Houston native out of Klein Forest High School was considered the Wildcats' top recruit, one of the top players in Texas and a top-20 national defensive end, according to, and

Umeh was one of three signees from Klein Forest, along with safety Dominic Patrick and wide receiver Bobby McCoy. Their high school coach, Gene Johnson, was hired as an Offensive Graduate Assistant coach during the signing period.

"You always dream of big pass rushers, big guys on the edge, and McCollins Umeh possesses a lot of those characteristics," said Stoops at the Signing Day Press Conference. "Those three kids from Klein Forest are special, and we feel very fortunate to have them in our program."

Tuesday's high temperature was 97 degrees at the Physics and Atmospheric Sciences building, according to the atmospheric sciences department.

In 2001, Northwestern football player Rashidi Wheeler died during a voluntary workout and Minnesota Viking Korey Stringer died during training camp practice.

Mitra Taj contributed to this report.