It was not a bad hit, hard contact or extreme elements that cut the life of Will McKamey short. That much we do know. What we do not know is what exactly caused his death. The Navy freshman running back, who died on Tuesday following his dream to play Division I college football, collapsed during Saturday’s spring practice.
The 19-year-old McKamey spent three days in a comatose state at the University of Maryland’s Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he was airlifted from practice on Saturday. Despite cranial surgery to take care of a blood clot, ease swelling and remove pressure from his brain, he succumbed to his injury last night. He died at the shock trauma center surrounded by friends and family that made the trip up from Knoxville as well as Navy coaches, assistants, players and members of the administration.
Navy coaches have poured over practice tape footage looking for anything that could have led to McKamey’s on-field collapse. The running back’s family says that the coaches did not find anything at all out of the ordinary. All they could find was footage of McKamey carrying the football in a normal manner. They said that he was simply doing what he loves.
McKamey played for his father, Randy, who is a high school coach at Grace Christian Academy in Knoxville. He played there until his graduation following the 2012 season. The younger McKamey, a former Mr. Football award winner in Tennessee, was an All-State Class A running back for Grace Christian Academy. He compiled over 2,000 all-purpose yards in 10 games that year before falling victim to a head injury late in the season.
The injury forced McKamey to be hospitalized, but after countless CAT scans and MRI exams, as well as detailed examinations by four different neurosurgeons, it was determined that McKamey did not need brain surgery. He did suffer some brain swelling and a brain bleed following the incident, which occurred in late October of 2012, but seemed to make a full recovery. After not participating in athletics of any kind for nine months, the former All-American was cleared to play with full contact for the Midshipmen. The Navy running back died following his incident at spring practice shortly after being cleared.
Kara McKamey, Will’s mother, said that he was cleared following the nine months of no contact. She said that with four different surgeons’ opinions and “four to six CAT scans and MRIs” her family was confident that any and all health issues had been ruled out as possible dangers for the younger McKamey.
“I want to be clear,” she said, “…that [neither] the Navy football program nor us as his parents would have ever allowed [Will] to be in a dangerous situation.”
The 5-foot-9, 170-pound running back from Knoxville did not play in a game in 2013. He was enrolled as part of the 3rd Company in the Naval Academy, where he was majoring in Oceanography.
Following the death of the Navy running back that occurred as a result of spring practice, Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo offered the Academy’s thoughts and prayers for the McKamey family. He also said that as the Navy football program mourns for their fallen brother, they also want to celebrate his life and who McKamey was as a person.
Commentary by Jeremy Mika
Knoxville News Sentinel