University of Maryland hires consultant to review team protocols after football player's death

The University of Maryland has hired a sports medicine consulting group to conduct an external review of the football team’s protocols after the death of a 19-year-old offensive lineman.

Walters Inc., led by Dr. Rod Walters, a former college athletic trainer, will begin its review by the end of the week, university officials said Tuesday night. The review could take up to 90 days.

Maryland’s acting athletic director, Damon Evans, publicly pledged to conduct an external review the day after Jordan McNair died. The Randallstown resident was hospitalized May 29 after collapsing during an organized team workout in College Park. He died two weeks later.

McNair, a McDonogh graduate, was entering his second season with the Terps.

“The review will evaluate relevant policies and protocols, as the safety and well-being of our student-athletes is the highest priority,” university spokeswoman Katie Lawson said in an emailed statement.

Walters is a member of the National Athletic Trainers Association and the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, according to his website. The South Carolina-based consultant previously oversaw athletes’ health care and wellness at the University of South Carolina and Appalachian State University.

The details about the external review came on the eve of McNair’s funeral. The cause of his death has yet to be disclosed, leaving many to question what could have happened to the young man, who was often referred to as “a gentle giant.”

Hundreds of family and friends attended a viewing Tuesday for McNair at the Wylie Funeral Home in Randallstown. Many remembered him as having a big heart and limitless potential.

Among the mourners were dozens of Maryland football players, many of whom embraced each other as they walked through a room decorated with photos of McNair and shadowboxes filled with his old jerseys.

Lawson said football players “have been informed that regularly scheduled practices are voluntary until further notice.”

“First and foremost the focus is on the well-being of our student-athletes, and this time is for them to grieve,” the university spokeswoman said. “We will continue to provide the resources our student-athletes need, which includes counseling services and access to spiritual leaders, during this difficult time.”

Johnie McCaskill, a family friend, sat outside the room that housed McNair’s casket and recalled the nearly two decades he knew him.

The 77-year-old McCaskill said he never could understand how someone so gentle could possibly transform into such a powerhouse on the football field.

When McNair was still at McDonogh — and the highest-ranked Baltimore-area high school player in the Class of 2017 — McCaskill remembered saying to him: “Jordan, I’ve been knowing you all your life, but I must be missing something. What makes you a four-star recruit?”

McNair responded by saying, “Mr. Johnie, I don’t know.”

“A lot of people that are great,” McCaskill said, “don’t even know that they’re great.”

A representative of the McNair family declined to comment at the viewing. His parents will bury their son Wednesday, after a 10:30 a.m. service at the New Psalmist Baptist Church on Marian Drive in Northwest Baltimore.

On display at the funeral home Tuesday was McNair’s high school letter jacket, emblazoned with No. 70. There were photos of the 6-foot-4, 325-pound offensive lineman dominating on Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. A few pairs of his giant Air Jordans were set out on a table.

The shoes reminded DeRita Mobley, who works with McNair’s mother at Verizon, of how the women at their office would lovingly tease McNair whenever he came by to see his mom at work.

“Look how big his feet are now,” Mobley remembers them all saying.

Walking out of the funeral home, 76-year-old Brenda Rhett-Robinson solemnly noted how handsome McNair looked as he lay in his casket, next to flowers arranged in the shape of “79,” his jersey number at Maryland.

Rhett-Robinson, a longtime family friend, thought McNair would one day go on to play in the NFL.

“We don’t know why God did what he did,” she said, “but we have to trust him.”

trichman@baltsun.com

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