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‘You Always Had a Smile’

Friends and fellow teammates gave an outpouring of kind words for Nick Blakely, saying he talked about going to Heaven just hours before he collapsed and died during Hatter football practice on Monday evening.

Nick Blakely holds football

Nick Blakely was an accounting major from Georgia.

In a 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.”

Friends and family expressed shock at the sudden passing of the 19-year-old sophomore accounting major from Lawrenceville, Georgia. Blakely was on the sidelines shortly after practice began Monday evening and complained of not feeling well. He collapsed and was transported by ambulance to Florida Hospital DeLand.

An informal gathering for Blakely’s friends and colleagues will be held today at noon in Allen Hall on the DeLand campus, and a campus memorial service will be scheduled in the near future. Football practice has been canceled and flags have been lowered to half-staff on the Stetson campus in Blakely’s honor.

The University is providing counselors at Blakely’s classes today, as well as to his fellow teammates, and has extended the hours for counseling today for any Stetson student who needs assistance. Grief counseling sessions also are being made available for athletic trainers, coaches and other Stetson staff.

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A redshirt freshman, Nick Blakely was set to play for the Hatters for the first time this season as a linebacker.

Facebook and other social media were filled Tuesday morning with remembrances of Blakely, a redshirt freshman last year who was set to play for the Hatters for the first time this season. One friend recalled how excited Blakely, a 5-foot-10, 205-pound linebacker, was about returning to Stetson recently for football practice.

Blakely also played football in high school 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.

“Nick was the smartest, funniest, and most compassionate person I’ve ever met. He loved board games, his dog Prince, and his mom more than anything,” wrote one friend on his Facebook page.

“Fly High Nick. This truly breaks my heart. You always had a smile and a hug for me. My heart goes out to your mother Michelle. May Jehovah comfort your family and us all,” wrote another.

-Cory Lancaster 

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