In the past five years, there have been three serious heatstroke incidents in Maryland college football.
Most recently, the death of 19-year-old University of Maryland offensive lineman Jordan McNair has roiled the sport.
And it’s left experts questioning why previous athlete heatstrokes didn’t serve as a wake-up call before his death.
Since 2013, Towson University, Morgan State University and the University of Maryland, College Park each witnessed a tragedy — or near-tragedy — stemming from a football player’s heat illness.
Gavin Class, 2013
High school: St. Paul’s School in Brooklandville, Maryland
Position/college: Offensive lineman for the Towson Tigers
What happened: When Gavin Class was a junior, he suffered exertional heatstroke during an Aug. 12, 2013, football practice at Towson University. His body temperature reached an estimated 111 degrees. He arrived at the hospital in a coma, with significant organ failure. He was later transferred to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where his heart stopped and doctors resuscitated him. After he was stabilized, he required a liver transplant.
Class endured 14 surgeries on his road to recovery.
He’s since formed the YOLT Foundation — which stands for You Only Live Twice — and hopes to bring create more awareness about organ donation and heatstroke illness. He’s now working as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at the Johns Hopkins University.
Marquese Meadow, 2014
High school: Friendship Collegiate Academy in Washington
Position/college: Defensive lineman for the Morgan State Bears
What happened: Marquese Meadow, 18, attended a practice on Aug. 10, 2014, that was “scheduled to punish certain individuals on the team for team rule violations,” according to a lawsuit filed by his mother. About an hour in, Meadow began stumbling and became disoriented. The athletics staff failed to take his rectal temperature or immerse him in an ice tub — the only attempts to cool him involved placing cold water on his armpits and groin, according to the lawsuit. His temperature reached 106 degrees by the time it was finally checked at the Good Samaritan Hospital.
He was transferred to Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he went into liver and kidney failure and suffered a brain injury because of the loss of oxygen. Meadow remained in the intensive care unit on a ventilator for two weeks, before he died surrounded by family.
After he died, family and friends mourned the unselfish and affable teen who morphed into a fierce competitor on the field. Raised by a single mother, he thought of himself as "the man of the house,” The Baltimore Sun reported at the time. Meadow dreamed of an NFL career, but was realistic about having fallback plans — coaches said there was no doubt his future was bright.
The lawsuit against Morgan State and Good Samaritan was eventually settled.
Jordan McNair, 2018
High school: McDonogh School in Owings Mills
Position/college: Offensive lineman for the University of Maryland Terrapins
What happened: Jordan McNair, 19, was attempting 10 repetitions of a 110-yard run during a May 29 practice when he started showing signs of exhaustion. Trainers eventually moved him to the football field house for treatment, about 30 minutes after the onset of symptoms. Another half-hour would pass before anyone called 911, records show. The trainers did not take his rectal temperature or use cold-water immersion treatment, which experts say are the two steps that could have saved his life. He died June 13 at Maryland Shock Trauma.
McNair has been eulogized as a “gentle giant,” who chose the Terps because he wanted to stay close to home. McNair majored in kinesiology. He hoped, eventually, to become a physical therapist.
His parents have launched a foundation in their son’s honor, aimed at promoting awareness of heat-related illnesses, improving player safety and reducing heatstroke incidents among student-athletes. They say they don’t want any other parents going through what they are.