Parents of TSU football player who died at practice want answers - WSMV Channel 4

Parents of TSU football player who died at practice want answers

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Wayne Jones III (Photo from TSU Athletics) Wayne Jones III (Photo from TSU Athletics)

The parents of a Tennessee State University football player who suddenly collapsed and died at practice are raising questions about whether the university did enough for him.

Wayne Jones III's parents want to know if coaches ignored warnings from their son and were too slow to react during the emergency.

Jones' parents say after their son died, they started hearing directly from football players who told them the university may be trying to cover up what really happened. Now, the family says they want to know the truth.

"It's the worst feeling you can imagine, losing a child," said father Wayne Jones II.

Three weeks have passed and still the parents of the 19-year-old freshman walk-on are gripped with grief.

"The doctor, when she came in, she held both of my hands. She said, 'I got bad news. He didn't make it.' And that's the worst feeling I ever got - I ever had - in my whole life," Wayne Jones II said.

Practice on Nov. 7 was non-contact, meaning the players were wearing shorts, helmets and no pads.

Head Coach Rod Reed said near the beginning of practice, Wayne Jones III finished running a short drill and suddenly collapsed.

The athlete's parents say he had no known medical problems.

"He gets yearly doctors visits. We've never had any cause for concern," said mother Sonya Johns.

But what is most concerning now is several of their son's teammates have contacted them saying TSU isn't telling the whole story about his death.

"We don't have the answers right now, and we want to know what they are," Johns said.

The family has hired attorney Joe Haynes, who is conducting his own investigation. He said several players claim they witnessed Wayne Jones III tell Reed before practice that day he was feeling sick and needed to sit out.

"The coach's attitude was not receptive to that. And he challenged him to go practice in not a very kind way," Haynes said.

What's more, a timeline - the attorney says - reveals coaches didn't take the emergency serious enough.

Practice started at 4 p.m. Wayne Jones III collapsed near the beginning of practice, but the exact time is unknown.

Sources on the team tell Channel 4 News trainers went to check on him right away while coaches continued practice with the rest of the team.

Records show the first 911 call was made at 4:35 p.m.

Caller: "Got a non-responsive football player on the football field."
Operator: "Is he awake?"
Caller: "No, he's not awake."
Operator: "Is he breathing?"
Caller: "He's not responsive. He is breathing, and he has a pulse."

A couple minutes later, Wayne Jones III stopped breathing. Then, the operator told the caller to initiate CPR.

Eight minutes after the call began, at 4:43 p.m., the ambulance arrived at TSU. At 5 p.m., it arrived at Baptist Hospital.

"Practice started at 4 o'clock, and the call was made to 4:35 (p.m.) to 911. Somewhere in that 35 minutes that expired, this young man laid on the practice field unattended to," Haynes said.

An autopsy, when complete, may reveal more about the young man's death.

In the meantime, his parents have serious questions for TSU leaders about whether their son's warning about being too sick to practice was ignored and if coaches and trainers waited too long to call 911.

"If this young man had been attended to properly, on a timely basis, he'd be here today, and we wouldn't be talking about his death," Haynes said.

The family says they have not decided whether or not to take legal action. For now, they just want to gather all the facts.

TSU officials released a statement Friday, saying Wayne Jones III's "death was tragic and the TSU family continues to mourn the loss of one of its own."

They added they would "not comment further," and are awaiting information on the cause of death. They also said they're keeping the Jones family in their thoughts and prayers.

Several sources at TSU, who asked not to be named, said the family's concerns are simply coming from rumors and that trainers and coaches responded appropriately.

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