ORLANDO | Stetson football player Nick Blakely was remembered as a warm, generous person with an infectious smile following his sudden death Monday night in DeLand.
The university announced the 19-year-old sophomore, whose full name was Nicholas Adam Blakely, was on the sidelines shortly after practice began Monday evening when he complained of not feeling well.
Stetson athletics director Jeff Altier said athletic trainers pulled Blakely out of a light workout when the football player said he did not feel well and complained of feeling light headed. The trainers watched Blakely for “30 to 40 minutes” when he started to show signs of recovery. Altier said Blakely then passed out. The athletic trainers performed CPR and used an AED until an ambulance arrived six minutes later.
Blakely, an accounting major from Lawrenceville, Ga., was transported by ambulance to Florida Hospital DeLand and later died.
“The effort to save Nick was nothing less than heroic,” Hatters coach Roger Hughes said while fighting back tears during a news conference Tuesday.
Hughes noted the players already had almost 36 hours off before the workout and the practice conditions were among the best of the preseason, with limited heat and light contact. He repeatedly praised the effort of athletic trainers, reiterating they followed the proper protocol and there were no indications Blakely was in danger.
Blakely’s parents, his football teammates, other members of the athletics staff and faculty who taught his courses were informed of his death Monday night.
“He could just light up a room,” Stetson quarterback Gaven Defilippo said. ” … He’s a competitive guy. He was going to give you your best shot every play. He was a great teammate, a great person and he will be missed every day.”
Soon after Blakely died, word spread to the athlete’s friends in DeLand and Georgia.
“He was a good guy. He was funny. He was always happy,” said Keely Jackson, who formed a close bond with Blakely when they were in high school. “He was the life of the party. He never met a stranger. Everyone loved him.”
Archer head coach Andy Dyer, who coached Blakely in high school, wrote in a text message to the Sentinel, “Our hearts are broken with the loss of Nicholas. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his Archer family and his Stetson football family. Nich has had a huge impact on many people and we are going to miss his great spirit and his million dollar smile.”
Grief counselors were available to help the players cope with the loss of Blakely, who had a close connection with many of his teammates.
Stetson kicker Jonny Messina posted on Twitter, “God bless you, Nick Blakely. You were such a great guy to be around, making everyone around you better. This year’s for you brother. (Hashtag)RIP37”
Hatters sophomore defensive lineman Shane Parton posted, “Everyone is so OVERSET FOLLOWS:important. Tell everyone close to you that you love them. Love you nick, all for you. (Hashtag)RIP37”
Counselors met with players and others on campus who knew Blakely.
Blakely, a defensive back, redshirted last season and never ultimately got a chance to play in a college football game. He joined his teammates getting ready for the season opener at Sacred Heart University Saturday in Connecticut. The Hatters aren’t scheduled to play their home opener in DeLand until Sept. 16.
Blakely was a three-year letter winner at Archer High in Lawrenceville, about 45 minutes northeast of Atlanta.
The multi-sport athlete played running back and safety on the football team and competed on the 4x400-relay team. He helped Archer High post a 33-7 football record during three seasons.
Blakely chose Stetson over Georgia State.
He is survived by father, Milton Blakely; mother, Michelle Wilson; brothers, Ryan Brown and Jared Blakely; and sisters, Shayla and Paige Blakely.
Nick Blakely’s cousin, Kenny Monday, was a three-time All-American wrestler at Oklahoma State who won a pair of Olympic medals in 1996 and 1992.