A football player preparing to start his freshman year of college died tragically after completing his first day of practice with his new team, PEOPLE confirms.
Braeden Bradforth was discovered in a “medically distressed” state while near his dorm room at Garden City Community College in Kansas after going through conditioning drills with the team on August 1. According to the Garden City Telegram, the team’s certified athletic trainer called an ambulance after evaluating Bradforth, who was then transported to nearby St. Catherine Hospital. Once there, doctors pronounced the 19-year-old dead around 11:30 p.m. local time — just two hours after he was found.
While an autopsy will determine Bradforth’s official cause of death, the Broncbusters’ head coach Jeff Sims tells PEOPLE that a doctor in the emergency room said tests indicated the student — from Neptune Township, New Jersey — may have had a blood clotting issue he did not previously know about, which caused a heart attack.
“When we were in the emergency room, we were concerned if we did something wrong, or if there was something we could have done better,” Sims says. “We were assured by the ER doctor that it was something that wouldn’t have come up on a physical. He believed it was a blood clotting disorder — which you’re not going to detect unless you’re looking for it.”
Bradforth recently earned a scholarship to play at GCCC, and was going to play defensive tackle for the Broncbusters team.
“Braeden will be missed not only by his family but by everyone whose life he touched,” Bradforth’s family said on a GoFundMe page set up to raise funds for his funeral. “He had big dreams and a big heart filled with the passion needed to bring all of his dreams to past.”
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Following Bradforth’s unexpected death, weekend practices were canceled to allow the team to grieve. In lieu of football activities, the team ate together in their position groups and went bowling, Sims says.
“We took the team out to dinners in groups and they did some activities, just to build some trust with each other and get to know the coaches better,” he says. “We started practice on Monday, and the first day wasn’t the best one we’ve had, but every day you can see the guys open up more, and we’ve had a good day so far today.”
Sims hopes the team can rally behind Bradforth’s story.
“Everybody was shaken up, but it’s something that, as a team, we can use to understand that this is life, and unfortunately, life happens and gets in the way of your best plans,” Sims says. “You have to regroup and restructure to put yourself in the best position possible. I think Braeden’s death has allowed a lot of our guys to do some self-inventory, and they’re trying to learn from it and grow from it.”