The University of Hawaii confirmed the linebacker's July 4 death on Friday, although a cause of death had yet to be announced

By Maria Pasquini
July 06, 2019 12:44 PM
Credit: Dennis Oda/Honolulu Star-Advertiser via AP

Scheyenne Sanitoa, a linebacker for the University of Hawaii, died on July 4. He was 21.

“It’s with deep sorrow that we share the tragic news that Scheyenne Sanitoa, a student-athlete with our Rainbow Warrior football team, passed away,” the school’s athletic director, David Matlin, said in a statement on Friday.

”Scheyenne was a tremendous young man and we are devastated by this news,” Matlin continued. “It’s always heartbreaking to lose a member of our UH ‘ohana, particularly when it’s one of our young student-athletes. Our deepest thoughts and prayers are with his family, his friends, his teammates, and to all those who knew and loved him.”

On Friday, the school’s football team was “brought together to discuss the tragedy,” Matlin shared in the statement, adding that counselors “will continue to be available for all student-athletes and staff to help with the healing process.”

University spokesman Derek Inouchi told USA Today and Sports Illustrated that the football player’s death did not take place on campus, nor was the student athlete involved in any athletics department activities at the time of his death. A cause of death has yet to be revealed.

PEOPLE’s request for comment from the UH’s athletic department was not immediately returned.

“Every time I seen Scheyenne he personified everything it was to be a good football player and a good teammate. Devastated is the best word to use because that’s what I was,” RJ Hollis, a former teammate and Hawaii football analyst told Khon2.

“I mean it’s hard for me to even put words to it. It was devastating to me and I haven’t even been in the locker room personally in a few years,” he shared. “Every time I seen him whether I had pads on or didn’t, he had a smile on his face and he was giving everything he had. And I know personally how hard it always is to give what you got. But Scheyenne was someone who I for one know, always gave it and he always left it on the field.”

Sanitoa, a junior who was originally from American Samoa, played in 12 games last season, and made 21 tackles, according to USA Today.