CORVALLIS, Ore. — An Oregon State defensive tackle who collapsed during a pick-up basketball game and died was stricken so suddenly that even if emergency personnel had been on the scene, they likely could not have saved him, a state police spokesman said.
Lt. Gregg Hastings says there is no evidence of a crime in the death of freshman Fred Thompson on Wednesday night.
An autopsy will be conducted on Friday to determine the cause of death, but Hastings said it appeared Thompson likely suffered cardiac arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat that in certain conditions can lead to death.
Oregon State coach Mike Riley said Thursday that Thompson had no history of heart issues. He knew of no family history, either.
“This is just one of those things you never want to be a part of. We will never forget Fred,” said Riley, who was clearly shaken and struggled to hold back tears. “I was so proud of him.”
Thompson was to turn 20 on Sunday. He collapsed while playing at a campus recreation center and was pronounced dead a short time later at Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis.
The 6-foot-4, 317-pound Thompson was from Richmond, Calif., and played at Oakland Tech High School.
Oregon State athletic director Bob De Carolis said a memorial service was being planned, and that counseling would be made available to students, who were in finals week.
Thompson was part of the 2010 recruiting class but delayed his enrollment until this January. He spent this season recovering from shoulder surgery and was considered a grayshirt.
He was expected to compete for a starting role this season.
“Everybody liked Fred. That’s the best way to say it. Fun, great smile,” Riley said. “I think he’s just one of those guys everybody liked. Like the perfect teammate.”
Some players gathered Wednesday night at Valley Football Center after word spread of Thompson’s death, and the front page of the Beavers’ website paid tribute to the young player. The Oregon State basketball team cancelled its weekly media availability on Thursday.
Oregon State cornerback Jordan Poyer posted on Twitter: “R.I.P Fred Im really gonna miss you bro. My prayers go to you and your family.”
His team biography said Thompson chose Oregon State because of the “family vibe, nice campus and great academics.” It says he was contemplating majoring in business.
At Oakland Tech, Thompson had 90 tackles and seven sacks his senior season. He also had an interception return for a touchdown for the Bulldogs, who went 9-3.
De Carolis also said the Beavers were working to set up a memorial fund.
“I think it’s always a tough situation whenever you lose a loved one, family member, a teammate. In this case, it’s even more tragic when you see a young person’s life end in a moment,” De Carolis said. “The thought here is how fragile a life is.”