Lincoln North Star, Wayne State communities reeling after athlete's death

2014-02-09T19:00:00Z 2014-02-13T13:13:04Z Lincoln North Star, Wayne State communities reeling after athlete's deathBy ROBBY KORTH / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com
February 09, 2014 7:00 pm  • 

Those who knew former Lincoln North Star standout football player Eddie Key III described him as a smart football mind, a great teammate and a caring friend.

Key, 18, was found dead in his dorm room at Wayne State College Saturday evening. An autopsy was scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

Amy Miller, a deputy Wayne County attorney, said no foul play was suspected, and that she didn't know if alcohol or drugs were factors in Key's death. Miller said Key probably died in his sleep sometime Saturday morning. He last was seen alive at about 4 a.m., she said. Authorities have not released further details.

Key's popularity was apparent in the outpouring of love for him and support for his family from former and current teammates and classmates.

Wayne State, which has about 3,600 students, was setting up counseling efforts for a community shaken by the freshman's death, said Jay Collier, Wayne State's director of college relations.

Former North Star teammate Maurice Moore had played with Key since they were 7. Through their time together — beginning with their peewee team, the Vikings — they became friends. When Moore left for Iowa Western Community College to play safety and run for the track team, they kept in contact.

Off the field, Key was "the nicest guy I ever met," Moore said. On it, he was somebody Moore loved having on his side.

"I just remember one time on a kick return following him all the way (down the field)," Moore said. "I just remember seeing that big 75 and I just kept following. ... He was always making great blocks."

The players who got only a single season with Key also respected him. Wayne State teammate Nate Rogers said that he’ll miss having Key as a blocker.

Key was also always an entertaining guy to have in the locker room, said Rogers, who first met Key when they were Shrine Bowl teammates.

“(There was) never a dull moment with him,” Rogers said in a Twitter message. “His freestyle raps were the funniest thing.”

Mark Waller, Key's former coach at North Star, said he had had a bright future on and off the field.

"He was just a great kid," Waller said. "It's a tragic situation. We loved Eddie and we're going to miss him."

Waller said a Lincoln Public Schools crisis team will come in to talk with North Star players this week, and next season the team will find a way to honor Key.

Collier, of Wayne State, said, "It's never anything easy to process, whether you're a college of 3,600 students or 36,000. But we're overwhelmed with the support we're receiving."

Wayne State Athletic Director Mike Powicki said in an email that Key's absence will be felt across campus.

"We consider all of our coaches, staff and student athletes members of the Wayne State Athletics family," Powicki said. "Any time a tragic incident such as this occurs, it is difficult to process, especially when it involves one of our student athletes. Eddie was extremely well liked among his coaches and teammates, he will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Key family."  

Key graduated from North Star in 2013 and was second-team All-Nebraska. He received Super-State honors as an offensive lineman his junior and senior years. He was listed as a defensive end on Wayne State's roster.

His bio on Wayne State's website lists his parents as Stephanie and Eddie Key.

Reach Robby Korth at 402-473-2655 or at rkorth@journalstar.com.

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