Remembering Nick Blakely
Update: A Celebration of Life for Nick Blakely will be held Thursday at 7 p.m. in Lee Chapel. Details below.
Nick Blakely had an infectious smile, the spirit of a competitor and was looking forward to playing in his first Hatter football game this Saturday.
“He could just light up a room, no matter what kind of day you were having,” said Gaven DeFilippo, a quarterback for the Hatters football team. “He would give you a smile and it kind of lights you up and turns your day around, too.”
DeFilippo recalled his teammate Tuesday afternoon, less than 18 hours after Blakely died following a light football practice. The 19-year-old accounting major had complained about being light-headed Monday evening and was on the sidelines being monitored by athletic trainers when he collapsed.
The trainers performed CPR on him until paramedics arrived. He was taken to Florida Hospital DeLand, where he passed away.
“Obviously, it’s not an easy time for any of us,” DeFilippo said during a press conference in the Edmunds Center on Tuesday. “We’re trying to stay strong, to be there and to mentor the younger kids on our team.”
The Hatter football team and hundreds of others from the Stetson Community gathered at noon Tuesday in Allen Hall at an informal gathering to honor Blakely. Wearing black stickers with Blakely’s number 37, the crowd overflowed from the auditorium as they held hands, prayed and embraced.
“I saw what it meant to be a Hatter last night,” football Head Coach Roger Hughes told the students, faculty and staff. “When a tragedy like this hits part of our family, we come together as a family. We come together to support each other … to feel the spirit that makes us Stetson Hatters.
“Nick felt that spirit. He felt that camaraderie. He felt that love, he felt that and that’s what drew him here,” explained the coach, who said Blakely’s family “is our utmost concern right now.”
Football practice was canceled and flags were lowered to half-staff on the Stetson campus in Blakely’s honor.
The University provided counselors at Blakely’s classes on Tuesday, as well as for his teammates. Counseling hours were extended Tuesday for students who needed assistance. And grief counseling sessions were made available for coaches, staff and athletic trainers.
Blakely, a redshirt freshman, was excited about the Hatters’ season opener on Saturday, Sept. 2, against Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, said his friend and defensive back Dre Long.
Long said the 5-foot-10, 205-pound linebacker from Lawrenceville, Georgia, gave his all to football. He was competitive on the field, on the sidelines, while playing video games or shooting baskets in a trash can with wads of paper.
“He was energetic and he was always having a good time, always had a smile on his face. He was a good friend,” Long said at Tuesday’s press conference.
Blakely also played football at Archer High School in Lawrenceville and earned letters for three years as a running back and safety. He competed on the track team, and his cousin won two Olympic medals in wrestling, according to GoHatters.com.
Facebook and other social media were filled with kind words and condolences for Blakely. In one tweet posted Monday night, fellow teammate Matt Andreas said Blakely spoke with another player just hours before his death and said, “I’m not much of a traveler, but I’d sure like to go to Heaven.”
“Stories like this only confirm God,” Andreas, a freshman receiver on the team, tweeted Monday night. “Literally gives me chills just thinking of it.”
DeFilippo said the team is committed to playing on Saturday, despite the tragedy.
“To honor him, that’s what he would want us to do,” he said. “He was one of the most competitive guys on the team. It would be a disrespect to him not to get out there and go compete and go play as hard as you can.”
Coach Hughes added there are plans to put No. 37 stickers on the players’ helmets or Blakely’s initials.
Celebration of Life: Nick Blakely
Please join Stetson University as we celebrate the life of Nicholas Adam Blakely on Thursday, Aug. 31, at 7 p.m. in Lee Chapel, Elizabeth Hall, 421 N. Woodland Blvd., DeLand, Florida. A 19-year-old sophomore accounting major from Georgia, Nick passed away after collapsing on the sidelines during a team practice.
Nick’s father and some of his family will be in attendance and are planning a funeral service for Wednesday, Sept. 6, in Georgia.
Nick was a well-loved member of the Stetson University football team and the team will play this weekend at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. For students who are on campus this weekend, we invite you to gather in community:
- Join us on Friday morning to see the team off. Students, faculty and staff should plan on lining up along Minnesota Avenue in front of Smith and Gordis Halls by 7:15 a.m. There is no parking available in the immediate area.
The game will be streamed live on Saturday, Sept. 2, at 5:30 p.m. and the community is invited to join together at the Rinker Welcome Center, or it can be viewed on Sacred Heart’s video feed: http://necfrontrow.com/webcast.php/SHU-4636/
- A student community dinner is planned for Sunday, Sept. 3, at 6 p.m., at the Allen Hall Auditorium.