Winona State football coach: ‘We didn’t get enough of him’

Shawn Afryl, 22, died Monday during football practice

The Winona State community is remembering one of its football players.

Shawn Afryl, 22, collapsed about 20 minutes into a voluntary workout Monday night. Coaches said medical staff on-site tried CPR, but were unsuccessful.

A cause of death has yet to be confirmed.

Afryl transferred to Winona State this year after playing three seasons at the University of Illinois.

At Winona State, Afryl was studying to be a teacher and a coach. He was only in Winona for three weeks, but Shawn will always be remembered as a Warrior.

Many football players will tell you that when they step on a football field, they feel at home.

“Inside the lines of a football field there’s nobody else there but us,” head football coach Tom Sawyer said.

So it’s only fitting that Afryl was doing what he loved at the time of his death.

“I know he lived a good life and had good opportunities. The University of Illinois, when they brought him in as a football player, he had a tremendous opportunity there. He comes here and he gets another tremendous opportunity. So he lived life and it was good, so I feel in my heart that that’s good because even though he died, he died happy,” Sawyer said.

Afryl was only on campus for three weeks, but he was already leaving a good impression on Sawyer and his teammates.

“We just didn’t get enough of him,” Sawyer said.

Which makes the loss of Afryl even tougher on the team, but coach Sawyer says this loss will help motivate his team to win.

“Our guys will of course have a sad heart, but as a motivator to say ‘Hey we still have a chance, lets go,’ and I think that’s how the family would want our guys to do it,” Sawyer said.

“These workouts were in accordance with all our Winona State University policies as well as NCAA. The proper staff members were there and have proper certification, Assistant Athletic Director Chris Kautza said.

Kautza said the news hits hard and it’s something no university can be prepared for.

He said staff is doing all it can to support the student-athletes.

“One thing that we wanted to stress to the players is that we have the resources available to you at any point, never hesitate to go to counseling services, never hesitate to stop in our office and use those resources that you have,” Kautza said.

Sawyer said even though Shawn never got to play a game at Maxwell Field, he’ll be on the field with his team every week.

“Even though this tragedy took place on our field, it’s also our field. So it’s OK to go back out there and to celebrate the time that we had with Shawn and also bring ourselves together,” Sawyer said.

Winona State is taking a bus to Shawn’s funeral in Illinois this weekend with staff, players and coaches.

The athletic department said they’re planning some way to remember and honor Afryl.

A fund has been set up by Afryl’s family to help with funeral costs. More than $31,000 has already been raised.