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CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Bertrand Umeh, father of the late Arizona football recruit McCollins Umeh, speaks at a press conference at McKale Center following the death of his son. The younger Umeh died after collapsing during a voluntary workout on the UA campus.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, August 31, 2004
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UA freshman McCollins Umeh dies at first summer workout

Incoming Arizona freshman football player McCollins Umeh died during a voluntary workout on campus June 8.

The death was the result of an enlarged heart and was not heat-related, according to autopsy report from the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office.

Umeh, 18, collapsed 20 minutes into the workout on campus, less than 24 hours after arriving from Houston. A 6-foot-3, 245-pound defensive end, Umeh was the Wildcats' top recruit this year.

"He was special. I feel fortunate to have known him for as long as I've known him. I'm sorry that a lot of people in this room will not have that experience because he was a great, great person. He stood for all of the right things and had an unbelievable future. Again, I couldn't say enough about him as a person and all of the great things he wanted to accomplish," UA head coach Mike Stoops said. "I've only known him for a short time and you knew everything they said about him was true."

Stoops, prohibited from attending voluntary workouts by NCAA rules, said seeing Umeh was "refreshing" and to find out 20 to 30 minutes later of his death was "tragic."

Umeh's father, Bertrand, a former player for the Nigerian national soccer team, said it was a "great tragedy" but also "the will of God."

"One of the greatest tragedies a man can have is the dad burying his son," he said. "It should be the other way around."

Darlene McClemmon, an aunt of M.C., as his friends and family knew him, opened her remarks by thanking God.

"He was a special angel in our lives. He was kind-hearted. He was trustworthy. He had a spirit that would just overpower those that didn't have a spirit. M.C. was a kid that was brought up (through) the good times and the bad times and he had a smile even with the obstacles that got in his way."

Bertrand said his son got along with everybody and had no enemies. "He was always smiling. He did everything he was asked to do as a child," he said. "He made me proud the short while he was on this Earth."

UA President Peter Likins offered condolences to the Umeh family and spoke about dealing with the death of his son, John, in 2002.

Though Umeh was months away from his first real practice, and even further from his first game, junior safety Darrell Brooks said that the loss was a blow to the football team.

"He will be greatly missed by each and every one of us," Brooks said. "We will continue to honor M.C. and keep him in our memory. I don't think words can explain how we all feel."

Betrand spoke glowingly about the UA coaches and officials, and Brooks said he and his teammates continue to support the coaching, strength and medical staffs.

"I spoke to some of the coaches when they came down to Houston when they recruited him. They were a bunch of nice people." Betrand said. "I don't have anything bad to say about them. They've been wonderful."

Umeh arrived on campus at 9:30 a.m. on the day of his death, went through a "comprehensive and thorough physical, passed his physical and was released for conditioning," said UA Senior Associate Athletics Director Rocky LaRose. He next met with UA strength coaches, was "very excited" and "couldn't wait to get out on the field and start his Wildcat career."

He began the workout at 1 p.m., and at 1:26 p.m. the 911 call was made, said LaRose.

Even before the initial findings of the autopsy were released, Arizona planned to continue with the workouts, UA Athletics Director Jim Livengood said.

- James Kelley

Oregon star recruit killed outside home of family member

The University of Oregon suffered through a tough summer. The Ducks lost incoming freshman linebacker Terrance Kelly before he could even play a game on the Eugene campus. Kelly, a highly touted recruit from national power De La Salle High School, was shot and killed in the Bay Area suburb Richmond, Calif. in early August.

According to a police report, Kelly was waiting in his father's car outside a family friend's house when he was shot by and unknown assailant.

"We all mourn and send best wishes to his family, friends and teammates," head coach Mike Bellotti said in a press release. "Certainly it's very difficult to begin the season with this type of thing, but the most important people are Terrance's family, friends and his grandmother, who is in the hospital. Our prayers go out to them in this time of loss."

Kelly was scheduled to be in Eugene for fall camp beginning Aug. 18

- From staff and wire reports

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