Gophers reach second stage of mourning for Tinsley

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 11, 2012 - 12:05 PM

No one has been stronger through the ordeal than Tinsley's roommate, Keanon Cooper.

He'll have his whole life to remember his friend. On Tuesday, Keanon Cooper just wanted to forget.

He wanted to forget the shock of being unable to shake Gary Tinsley awake last Friday morning. To forget the distress of dialing 911. To forget the frenzy of paramedics trying to revive his roommate, and the horror of realizing they could not.

Cooper left his memories in the locker room Tuesday and joined his teammates back on the practice field, going on with football even as they mourn.

"For me, football is therapeutic," the 22-year-old senior said after the Gophers held their first spring practice in the wake of Tinsley's mysterious death. "When I get out there, I'm with my teammates and concentrating on what I have to get done. In football, I forget everything."

He and his teammates will never forget these past four days, though, and Cooper's role in them. All 100-plus Gophers, coaches and staff are trying to cope with the loss of a young man they grew close to over the past four years. But none of them must process the shock of discovering Tinsley's body the way Cooper does.

"I was probably one of the guys who was hurting the most," Cooper said Tuesday, "but I've been trying to stay strong for the people around me. For my teammates and the coaching staff, people close to GT, his family."

Cooper, who played weakside linebacker alongside Tinsley in the middle for the past two seasons, is accomplishing that -- and amazing those around him.

"Coop has been the strongest one out of all of us," quarterback MarQueis Gray said. "He's his roommate, he was the one who found him. That had to be very hard on him emotionally and physically. To wake up and see death, that's not something you want to see every day."

But Cooper, who had shared a dorm suite with Tinsley since 2010, remained calm during the crisis Friday, and composed as he described it four days later. He heard Tinsley's alarm clock ringing, and wondered why the linebacker had not turned it off.

"When I went in, I tried to wake him up," but got no response, Cooper said. "I just looked for signs [of life]. Checked to see if the body was cold. As soon as I felt in my heart it didn't look right, I called the people I needed to call, 911. I tried to stay calm throughout the call to make sure all the information they needed, I could get to them."

Paramedics arrived within three minutes, but couldn't revive Tinsley, who seemed to have died in his sleep.

"I was just happy to know that the way he went was the way he deserved to go," Cooper said. "He was a special kid, a great student, a great person. It was a blessing to have met a guy like him. It was even more of a blessing to have been a teammate and his roommate."

That poise has rubbed off on the Gophers, and will help get them through the tragedy, said the pair's position coach.

"I'm so proud of [Cooper]. He's been such a rock," linebackers coach Bill Miller said. "I'm so proud of him, just how he's handled everything. ... Most of these guys are tough people, most of these guys understand what he'd want. I know Gary would want us to quit hanging our heads and get back out and go practice, and celebrate his life."

Those two priorities are how the Gophers will fill the rest of the week. They will practice again Thursday afternoon and Friday night, then take a chartered flight as a team Saturday to Jacksonville, Fla., to attend funeral services in Tinsley's hometown.

"There's no right or wrong way to get over it," Miller said. "You've got to cry, you've got to laugh, you've got to remember. And Gary will definitely be remembered."

The loss of a teammate already has brought the Gophers closer. Some prominent players urged coach Jerry Kill to hold practice as usual on Saturday to help the Gophers cope, but instead, he bused the players to a Dave & Buster's restaurant and arcade in Maple Grove -- "the best practice we've [had] since we've been here," Kill said. "Gary probably made our team better on Saturday," through the fellowship the team experienced that afternoon.

It seemed strange to talk football again, Kill said, too soon to correct a player for messing up. But the Gophers got back at it anyway, running through two hours of individual drills and a brief 11-on-11 session.

"I thought we were going to be a little bit sluggish, [that] Coach was going to be doing a lot of screaming," Gray said. "But overall, we had a lot of energy today, people were flying around. We were happy to know that GT's in a better place."

Added fellow linebacker Mike Rallis: "I was a little nervous at first, honestly. I didn't know exactly how I'd feel. I wanted to play well for him. I realized the way he played the game, he had so much fun playing it -- talking, [being] excited, celebrating, making plays. I realized that's the best thing I could do to honor him."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner 8 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: E. Volquez 0
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
Washington 1 FINAL
Buffalo 6
Carolina 3 FINAL
Columbus 6
Pittsburgh 2 FINAL
Detroit 0
Montreal 3 FINAL
Chicago 1
Arizona 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Hamilton 10/10/14 6:00 PM
Toronto
Ottawa 10/11/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pm30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 am
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Gophers do against Michigan?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close