"Everybody liked Fred. He was just a big old guy with a great smile."
So said a visibly shaken Oregon St. football coach Mike Riley, speaking of freshman Fred Thompson, at this afternoon's brief press conference in Gill Coliseum.
Thompson, 19, who passed away last night, just 4 days before his 20th. birthday, suffered a cardiac arrhythmia while playing in a pickup basketball game at the Dixon Rec. Center on the Oregon St. campus.
Oregon St. Athletic Director Bob DeCarolis announced that a family service for Thompson, who is from Richmond, CA, and played at Oakland Tech in Oakland, CA, before coming to Oregon St., is still pending.
"This was a devastating and tragic event for all of us, and Fred's family," Riley added.
A memorial service will be help on campus, but it will be in January, tentatively Sunday, Jan. 8, after all the students and team members, some of whom have already left campus after completing finals, or will be leaving shortly for winter break, have returned, DeCarolis said.
Oregon St. Police Lt. Greg Hastings, the department's Public Information Officer reconfirmed the details reported previously about last night's events. Thompson collapsed while playing basketball, and 911 was called at 6:20 PM PST. Dixon Rec. center staff, and then within about 3 minutes, first responders from the Corvallis Fire Dept., arrived and began care. After approximately 20 minutes on scene, Thompson was transported at 6:50 PM to Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis, where he was pronounced dead.
An autopsey will be performed Friday morning, but Dr. Karen Gunson described the particular arrhythmia Thompson suffered as "hard to treat", and felt that even if EMTs been courtside when Thompson collapsed, it wouldn't have changed the result.
Coach Riley and AD DeCarolis noted that there were no known pre-existing heart or other medical conditions that would have caused last night's medical emergency.
Thompson, who enrolled last winter term as a grey-shirt, suffered a shoulder injury during spring ball, and subsequently suffered appendicitis this fall, causing him to miss this season, and to red-shirt. But Thompson had fully recovered from both problems, and had begun practicing with the team before the end of the season.
Riley anticipated big things from Thompson next year, a 6'4", 317 lb. defensive tackle.
A memorial fund for Thompson has been established with the Citizen's Bank of Oregon, which has several branches in the mid-valley. Interested persons can call 541-752-5161 and ask for more details about the "Fred Thompson Memorial Fund."
DeCarolis also indicated that a memorial fund will probably be established with the OSU Foundation, but details about that will be developed later.
Both Riley, who returned from a recruiting trip to Seattle, and DeCarolis, who had to go through a similar incident while he was at the University of Michigan, were clearly emotionally drained by the events.