Former football star Sterling Lewis had been hospitalized with health complications earlier this month, his family said

By Dave Quinn
February 28, 2020 11:50 AM
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Sterling Lewis
Credit: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty

The University of Arizona is mourning the death of one of its former football stars.

Sterling Lewis, who played as a linebacker for the Arizona Wildcats in 2008 and 2009 under coach Mike Stoops, died on Wednesday at the age of 32, the school confirmed to PEOPLE.

He is survived by his wife, Ashley, and their two young sons.

According to Jack Welch, Lewis’ coach at Copperas Cove High School in Texas, the athlete died while battling valley fever disease complications.

The fungal infection — caused by coccidioides organisms commonly found in soil in the Southwest — can cause symptoms that resemble those of the flu — like fever, chest pain, and coughing, the Mayo Clinic reports.

Lewis had been hospitalized with health complications earlier this month and was put into a medically induced coma with assisted breathing devices, his family said.

Sterling Lewis
Sterling Lewis
| Credit: GoFundMe

Prior to coming to UA, where Lewis played under coach Mike Stoops, the late athlete was at Blinn College in Texas, the Associated Press reported.

With the Wildcats, he contributed 98 tackles, three sacks, and an interception, helping bring the team to both the Holiday Bowl and the Las Vegas Bowl, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

He wore No. 52.

“The Arizona Football Family is deeply saddened by the passing of Sterling Lewis,” Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin said in a statement on social media. “The entire football program would like to extend our deepest sympathies to Sterling’s family and friends.”

“His contagious passion, energy and enthusiasm will be missed,” Sumlin added.

Some things I’ll never understand, and this one really hurts. Thank you for all the laughs and good times. Rest easy bro,” said Earl Mitchell, a fellow Wildcat, on Instagram — calling Lewis on Twitter, “A baller with the best personality.”

A GoFundMe page has been created for Lewis and his family.

It was started three weeks ago when Lewis was first hospitalized. As of Friday morning, it has raised $14,420 of $10,000 goal.