On Wednesday, an 18-year-old offensive lineman at Mississippi State University died unexpectedly just two days before his birthday.
In March, Samuel Westmoreland of Tupelo, Mississippi, announced that he made the decision to join the team after a “long and exciting recruiting process.” Westmoreland had received awards for his football achievements while at Tupelo High School and decided to major in industrial technology at Mississippi State University.
“Mississippi State University was deeply saddened to learn of the death this morning of freshman student-athlete Samuel Westmoreland of Tupelo, Mississippi,” the university said in a statement. “Westmoreland, a Tupelo High School graduate, was an offensive lineman for the MSU Bulldog football team and an industrial technology major. He was set to turn 19 on Friday.”
“The Mississippi State Athletics Family is heartbroken by the sudden death of Sam Westmoreland,” said head coach Mike Leach. “Sam was a beloved son, brother and teammate, and a tremendous young man with a limitless future.”
“He will always be remembered and deeply missed by everyone who knew and loved him,” Leach continued. “The entire MSU Family mourns as our thoughts and prayers go out to the Westmoreland family. Our highest priority is the support of the Westmoreland family and our student-athletes during this troubling time.”
The university has released no details about the cause of Westmoreland’s death, and the school said it was cooperating with Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Office and the coroner’s office in the ongoing investigation into the matter.
“We are heartbroken by the sudden loss of Sam Westmoreland,” said the MSU director of athletics John Cohen. “Mississippi State is a family, and we are all mourning during this trying time. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Westmoreland family and everyone who knew and loved Sam.”
“One of the most profound lessons I’ve learned while leading this great university is that the tragic loss of one of our students diminishes all of our students—and all of us at Mississippi State feel the impact of Sam Westmoreland’s death,” said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. “My prayers are with Sam’s family and friends, with his MSU teammates and coaches, and with the Tupelo community during this most difficult time.”
“Very sad to hear of the passing of Sam Westmoreland at Mississippi State,” wrote former Mississippi State University Head Coach Dan Mullen in response to the tragedy on social media. “The loss of a teammate is something you hope to never experience. Our family sends prayers to his family, friends and the Mississippi State Football family.”
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement, “We are incredibly sad to learn of Mississippi State Football student-athlete Sam Westmoreland’s passing. I know the entire Southeastern Conference family sends its condolences to the Westmoreland family, his teammates, classmates and all who knew Sam. Our prayers today are with everyone at Mississippi State.”
It’s not the first time in recent memory that up-and-coming athletes have unexpectedly passed away. Last month, Clark Yarborough, a 21-year-old defensive lineman at Ouachita Baptist University collapsed on the field and died a short time later. His cause of death is still unknown.