Winona State football player dies during practice

WSU football player dies during practice

WINONA, Minn. – A football player for Winona State University collapsed and died during practice.

School officials say it happened Monday evening around 7:30 p.m.

"It's going to be tough on everybody," said Winona head coach Tom Sawyer.

Sawyer was on vacation in Florida when said he got a phone call from one his players that 22-year-old Shawn Afryl had collapsed Monday night.

He returned Tuesday morning for a team meeting.

Because of NCAA rules, it was not an official practice, only voluntary. Dozens of players were there for the session which was run by strength and condition coaches.

They called an ambulance, but Afryl later died. It is still unknown what caused his death, according to school officials, but Sawyer knows firsthand it has caused plenty of heartache.

"It's just gut-wrenching, it really is. It's an awful feeling," he said.

Sawyer says Afryl graduated from Illinois University last year where he was an offensive lineman, but played for little. He was still eligible to play, so he came to Winona State University to get a degree in teaching.

"He didn't play a lot and he was looking for an opportunity to play more," he said. "When he came into a visit to transfer, I really got to like him a lot. He's outgoing. He's passionate about football."

Condolences started showing up on Twitter Tuesday afternoon from former teammates, NFL players, and Illinois's head football coach.

"People are grieving and what to do everything they can to help the family," said Sawyer.

His mother started a "Go Fund Me" account online, worried about the costs of burial and transporting Afryl's body back to his home in Illinois.

The effort had already reached its goal, raising more than $25,000 early Tuesday night.

For those who knew him, it was an indication of his talent on the field, but more importantly off of it.

"It's a testament to what kind of person he was and how many people he had an effect on in a real positive way," he said.


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