U football player Tinsley found dead in dorm room

  • Article by: MICHAEL RAND , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 6, 2012 - 5:13 PM

Gary Tinsley, who completed his senior season with the Gophers football team last fall, was found dead in his room at the U of M’s Roy Wilkins Hall on Friday morning, the university confirmed.

Tinsley was found unresponsive in his room about 7:40 a.m. by teammate and roommate Keanon Cooper. Emergency personnel responded within minutes but were not able to resuscitate Tinsley.

There was no evidence of drugs or alcohol with Tinsley, but authorities are waiting for the full medical examiner report, according to U of M Police Chief Greg Hestness.

“It’s a very, very sad day, said Gophers head coach Jerry Kill said in a news conference Friday afternoon. “We lost one of our own today in Gary Tinsley, who I know is in a good place. Gary was a young man who had done everything I asked him to do since I walked in the door. ... It’s devastating to a family that loves a child. ... Most important thing is Gary’s family and our players, and I love them all.”

Gophers quarterback MarQueis Gray said he had just texted with Tinsley on Thursday.

“We’re still a family. When you sign on the dotted line, you enter a whole new brotherhood,” Gray said. “It’s weird. Last night we were texting each other, today he’s gone. But that’s the way God works. He was a great brother, a great teammate, a great friend. I know he was a great son to his parents, I can only imagine what his parents are going through now. ... it’s a sad day for Gopher Nation as well as the Gopher football team.”

Tinsley, 22, started all 12 games at middle linebacker for the Gophers during his senior season in 2011 and finished second on the team in tackles with 87. He was slated to get his degree in business marketing education this spring. He will be given his degree posthumously.

Tinsley, a Jacksonville, Fla., native who attended First Coast High School, participated in the Gophers’ pro day last month, working out along with fellow teammates in front of NFL representatives from several teams.

He ran into some problems early in his Gophers career - he was arrested during his sophomore season for taking part in a brawl at a party near campus and six months later, he was suspended from the team after trying to flee police during a moped incident.

“Obviously I don’t know all of the 750 athletes like I’d like to,” Gophers AD Joel Maturi said. “Gary was one I knew. Sometimes I got to know him because of some of the things he did that I had to deal with. [It was] great to see his growth.”

In recent years, Tinsley had turned a corner both personally and as a player. In a Star Tribune story that ran in November, Tinsley was quoted as saying: “I saw my career and my life flashing in front of my eyes. It seems like I’ve been driven after that to do better, go the extra yard. Some people probably looked at me like [a troublemaker], but I know what kind of person I am, the coaches know. I’ve got my family behind me. It was just a real eye-opener. It made me a better person.”

U of M President Eric Kaler released a statement about Tinsley’s death that read, in part: “He was an important part of Gopher Athletics who was engaged in public service. Our thoughts are with Gary’s family and everyone on campus who knew him.”

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