By Russ McQuaid, WXIN, Courtesy CNN
An autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death of a player from the Jay County Panthers semi-pro football team who died during a game Saturday.
David Coleman, Jr., 32, was struck during a punt return in a game between the Panthers and the Northwest Ohio Knights in suburban Toledo.
“He was completely blindsided,” said Panthers Coach Zeb Sutton. “It looked like a clean hit but the guy did lead with the helmet.”
“The angle I was standing at…I seen the guy put his helmet into his chest,” said quarterback Chris Bender. “It was unnecessary….if you want my opinion. It was unnecessary because the ball carrier was already past him. The guy shouldn’t have even backed up like that.”
No flag was thrown on the play. Paramedics and doctors spent an hour working on Coleman before he was pronounced dead. The game was stopped as players from both teams joined in a prayer circle.
“He told me two weeks ago he had two things he knew he could rely on: that was football and his daughters,” said Sutton. “His mom did tell me the first thing she said was when she came walking out of the ER, ‘At least he died doing something that he loved.’”
Coleman was an unemployed truck driver with five daughters. As a player in the Crossroads Football League playing throughout Indiana and Ohio, the offensive line paid to play. He had no health insurance.
“Dave would want us to play,” said Sutton. “That’s what his brother was saying. Dave wouldn’t want us to quit.”
Coleman’s teammates are not so sure of their futures with the Panthers.
“I think honestly I’m done,” said Bender. “I mean, I’m getting too old for this. That could’ve been me. What would my wife and kids have done?”
Saturday’s game was a pre-season charity event to raise money for a coach of a rival team struck down with disease.
The Panthers are slated to open their season in two weeks with a game in Indianapolis.