In Short Time with Team, Afryl Left Mark on WSU Football

Updated: 07/23/2014 4:23 AM
Created: 07/22/2014 10:59 PM
By: Jenna Lohse

(ABC 6 News) -- Shawn Afryl is an Illinois native who recently transferred to Winona State. The coaching staff tells us the 22-year-old was working out with some teammates last night, when he collapsed. We sat down with some of those coaches today, who say the team is taking the loss extremely hard.

"You can't describe it,” said Cameron Keller, WSU Football Assistant Head Coach. Just one day after the sudden death of one of their own, it's hard for Winona State University football staff to put their feeling into words. "It definitely caught everybody completely by surprise,” he said.

Shawn Afryl was going through strength and conditioning drills with team-mates at Maxwell Field Monday night when he collapsed "One of our strength staff was the first one immediately on him to start CPR before the paramedics arrived,” said Keller.

Shawn was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

"My heart just went to the ground, it's awful, it's one of those calls you never want to get,” said WSU Football Head Coach, Tom Sawyer.

Winona coaches say with no known medical condition, they have yet to know his cause of death. The Chicago Tribune reports his former high school coach claims Afryl died of cardiac arrest.

"If at any time the heat index gets to a situation where we have to pull them off the field, our guys would have acted accordingly,” said Keller.

But one things certain, in his short 4 weeks at Winona State, Shawn made his mark. "He was really enjoying himself and you could see it, and we took interest in him just like he took interest in us and it was a perfect fit,” said Sawyer.

Shawn was pursuing a teaching degree at WSU, which coaches say was evident on the field. "He had a great personality, his work ethic was incredible and I think that was something that was also becoming pretty infectious with our guys,” said Keller.

An outpouring support for Shawn and his family is taking off online. An "in loving memory" Facebook page has been created and there's now more than $26,000 worth of donations on a GoFundMe site his mother created.

"For our guys to somehow be able to spin this into motivation, into inspiration, it's not going to happen today. It's going to take a little while for that process to kick in, but I think eventually you’re going to see our guys probably give a little bit more effort, probably be a little bit more focused on spending time with each other,” said Keller.

The team plans to take this week off to go to Shawn’s visitation in Chicago. Shawn's mother is asking for help in covering the funeral costs through GoFundMe.