The Rice University community has been stunned by the death of a star member of the football team.
Blain Padgett, a 21-year-old junior, was found dead Friday in his apartment after missing a morning team workout, according to reports.
When the defensive end failed to show up for the workout, some teammates went to check on him and found him unresponsive, Fox 26 Houston reported.
The cause of death has not been determined.
The station spoke to former Owls head coach David Bailiff, who said that Padgett would have played in the NFL.
Bailiff recruited Padgett out of high school in Texas.
“It’s news that absolutely hits your heart and brings tears to your eyes,” he said. “You reflect back on the last conversations you had with him. The big gut hug he gave you when you walked out the door. Shocked, saddened.”
“Can’t imagine what his parents and sister are going through because they’re such a close family,” added Bailiff. “Great kid, great player, team leader who influenced everyone around him. He would have played at the next level.”
The new coach at Rice, Mike Bloomgren, said the team was devastated by the news.
“All of my thoughts right now are how best to help Blain’s family and his teammates in this very difficult period,” he said.
The Owls start spring practice Monday.
Padgett’s football bio calls him a “commanding presence along the defensive front.”
After being named a preseason All-Conference USA third-team selection by Athlon and Phil Steele last year, Padgett was expected to have a breakout season in 2018, The Houston Chronicle reported.