Shawn Afryl, a former University of Illinois football player attempting to revive his college career at Winona State, died Monday night because of cardiac arrest related to an enlarged heart, according to his former high school football coach.
Curtis Tate, the former head coach at Niles West High School in Skokie, Ill., where Afryl was a prized college recruit, said he was with the Afryl family Tuesday when the Winona coroner called. Afryl’s heart condition had been undetected, Tate said.
“No one knew,” said Tate, acting as a spokesman for the Afryl family. “It’s something that was just missed.”
Afryl, who also was recruited by Iowa, Purdue and Indiana out of high school, played two seasons at Illinois and had enrolled at Winona State hoping to use his final two seasons of eligibility. An offensive lineman listed by Illinois as being 6-3, 310 pounds, he arrived in Winona about a month ago. He collapsed and died Monday night during a voluntary conditioning practice, according to Winona State associate head coach Cameron Keller.
The practice was supervised by the school’s strength and conditioning staff, who were trained in CPR and attempted to revive Afryl before paramedics arrived, Keller said. Paramedics were unable to revive Afryl, who was pronounced dead at a Winona hospital.
Tate said he is helping the family, aided by the Winona State football staff, to create a foundation in Shawn’s name that will provide football shoes and other athletic equipment to needy youngsters. Susan Afryl, Shawn’s mother, started a www.gofundme.com site Tuesday in hopes of raising $20,000 to help pay for her son’s burial expenses. As of Wednesday afternoon, the site had more than $30,000 in pledges.
Tate said anything more than $20,000 raised will go to the foundation.
Afryl graduated from Illinois in 2013 with a degree in political science. He was enrolling at Winona State not only to revive his football career — he had played in only one game in two seasons for Illinois — but to receive a degree in education that would enable him to become a high school teacher and coach.
“Shawn was just an unreal all-around person,” Tate said. “His goal was to teach and to help kids. Our focus right now is getting the foundation started in Shawn’s name.”
Winona State officials said they expect to have details of the foundation finalized by Thursday, including information about how to make a contribution.