The parents of a Tennessee State University football player, who died last year during practice, have filed a wrongful death suit against the school. Wayne Jones III, a 19 year old defensive back, died last November after he collapsed on the field during a non-contact team workout. In the lawsuit, the parents allege that an "unreasonable period of time elapsed before anyone approached him or attempted to provide any help" after their son collapsed.
Jones was considered a “red-shirt” player for the team. Upon his graduation from high school, he was invited to join the Tennessee State Tigers. The school had already handed out its quota of football scholarship, but the coach offered Jones the opportunity to join the team as a red-shirt, enabling him to participate in practices and drills for his freshman year. Jones agreed to pay his own way as a walk-on. (The one year of red-shirt eligibility does not count towards the four years of maximum play a college athlete is allowed.)
According to the lawsuit, Jones told his coach before the practice that he wasn’t feeling well and asked to be excused. The suit says the young man was “challenged” by the coach to participate. During the practice, he caught a ball and was returning it to one of the coaches when he collapsed onto the field. He was unconscious and without a pulse. Members of the coaching staff were unsuccessful in their attemtps to revive him. He was transported by ambulance to Baptist Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
An autopsy revealed the young man died from fatal arrhythmia due to scar tissue in the heart. According to the family’s wrongful death attorney, this type of heart arrhythmia is not that uncommon in athletes. If assistance is provided within the first few minutes, a victim can recover. NCAA regulations require that an automatic external defibrillator be available at all football practices during the season, but the lawsuit says the football staff failed to have a defibrillator "readily accessible" at practice as required.
William Wayne Jones III
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