After suffering a head injury during a spring football scrimmage at Tarleton State University Saturday, redshirt freshman Zach Shaver, 18, passed away at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth Monday morning.
Shaver, a 2009 graduate of Rider High School in Wichita Falls, was playing defensive tackle on what appeared to be an ordinary play until he went down and remained motionless on the 50 yard line.
CareFlite was called to the scene to transport Shaver to Fort Worth after athletic trainers and local emergency personnel were unable to get a response from him.
Shaver remained in a coma fighting for his life until increased swelling cut off oxygen to his brain early Monday morning.
Tarleton head football coach Cary Fowler says he lived on the same street as the Shaver family during his time as defensive coordinator at Midwestern State.
"Zach was a great young man, and I enjoyed watching him grow up over the years," Fowler said. "This is a very difficult time for the Shaver family and the Texan football family. We ask that everyone pray for his friends and family to help them through this difficult situation."
Kert Turner is a graduate assistant who coaches defensive linemen at Tarleton.
"He was one of the best kids I ever met," Turner said. "He was the kind of kid you want to coach and want to be around."
Turner said the mood was somber as players filtered into the Tarleton football field house Monday afternoon.
"As the guys come in I'm just hugging them," Turner said. "I'm trying to encourage them and be there for them."
Turner said coaches and players are leaning on each other as they cope with the loss of their teammate and friend.
"There's 100 of us and everybody is going through the same thing," Turner said. "At least we don't have to go through it alone."
Shaver earned first-team all-district and Class 4A honorable-mention all-state honors as a senior at Rider. He played against Stephenville in the area round of the state playoffs in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Scott Ponder, head football coach at Rider High School, has fond memories of Shaver as both a player and a person.
"Zach was a wonderful kid. We love him and we'll miss him," Ponder said. "He was beloved to his family, to our program and to the Rider community."
"He was our nose tackle and did a great job along the defensive line for us," he continued. "He was a tremendous worker, a kid of character. He was well respected in our locker room - admired and well liked."