Jamain Stephens, a defensive lineman at the California University of Pennsylvania, died Tuesday from complications of COVID-19.
It is unclear how Stephens, the 20-year-old senior business administration major and son of a former NFL player, contracted the virus.
In a statement, Cal U officials mourned the star player, sending condolences to his family and friends.
“Jamain was such a wonderful student with a smile on his face every time you saw him,” said Athletic Director Dr. Karen Hjerpe. “His personality was contagious, and he made such a positive impact on everyone he met.”
The college has set up counseling to support grieving students on campus.
Stephens was known by the nickname “Juice.”
His high school football coach, Terry Totten, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Stephens “lit up a room.”
“Whether you were a freshman or senior in class,” Totten continuesaid, “you knew who he was.”
The NCAA also expressed condolences to Stephens’ contemporaries in a tweet: “We join Cal U in mourning the loss of Jamain Stephens. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and teammates during this time.”
University of Pittsburgh safety Damar Hamlin, who was a high school teammate of Stephens’, wrote on Twitter that his friend was “The most genuine & caring soul on this planet. You touched so many w/ love & laughs. Cherish y’all brothers while they still here & PLEASE continue to take this virus seriously.. you’ll be missed dearly.”
COVID-19 is generally less fatal in young adults. However, the disease has been known to cause long-term coronary issues in athletes. Wayne Sebastianelli, the director of athletic medicine at Penn State, said recently that as many as 15% of his university’s Big Ten athletes who tested positive for COVID-19 also appeared to have developed myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart that can be fatal.
Stephens’ dad, also named Jamain Stephens, played for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1996 to 1998 and for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1999 to 2001.
In addition to his father, Stephens leaves to mourn his mother, Kelly, and two younger siblings.
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