Former Illini Afryl died during workout

Former Illini Afryl died during workout

Former Illinois offensive lineman Shawn Afryl died Monday night in Winona, Minn., after going through a workout with some Winona State football players, Winona State officials said on Tuesday.

Afryl recently transferred to Winona State this summer and was planning on playing this fall with the Warriors, a Division II school.

“In the time Shawn was on campus, he showed a lot of people what a great fit he was going to be not only for our football program but for our campus as well,” Winona State coach Tom Sawyer said. “He did an excellent job as a counselor during our team camps, and his leadership qualities and maturity were a valuable asset to our successful camps. He will be sorely missed.”

Illinois football players, coaches and fans woke up to that shocking news Tuesday morning.

No cause of Afryl's death was immediately known.

Afryl, 22, redshirted the 2010 season at Illinois and did not see action in any games during the 2011 season.

His lone appearance came in a win against Charleston Southern during the 2012 season.

The Niles West product chose Illinois ahead of Indiana, Iowa and Purdue, among others, as part of Ron Zook’s recruiting class in 2010.

Afryl enrolled early at Illinois after former Illinois co-defensive coordinator Dan Disch served as the lead recruiter on him.

"He was a really nice kid," said Disch, who is now the defensive coordinator at North Carolina. "He loved his family and wanted  to do them proud."

Afryl graduated from Illinois in August 2013.

Illinois coach Tim Beckman said Afryl had worked out at the Illinois weight room inside Memorial Stadium earlier this summer and had remained close with several current Illini.

"He was a great kid who graduated from here in three years," Beckman said. "He was a total team guy. He was an exceptional young man and very friendly. He was good friends with everybody."

Beckman said he heard the news of Afryl's death around 7 a.m. on Tuesday.

Recruiting coordinator Alex Golesh told him after Golesh had seen some of the tweets past and present Illinois players were posting.

"It’s going to hurt because it’s part of your family," Beckman said. "That’s what we’re trying to build here. You have to respond and have to move forward and do the things that are necessary because you know that’s what Shawn would have wanted you to do. Shawn hadn’t been around us as much here lately, but I know he meant a lot to this team."

Afryl's coach at Niles West, Scott Baum, was shocked when he found out Tuesday morning about Afryl's death.

"Shawn was the face of the Niles West football program when he was in school here," Baum said. "He was what every coach wanted. He was a leader on the field, in the weight room and in the classroom. Shawn was our Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. On the football field nobody wanted to be around him because he would either knock you down or tackle you, but when he walked the hallways of Niles West, everyone wanted to be around him because he was that guy. He was a true leader (and) will be missed."

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