UNLV Football Player Ryan Keeler Dead at 20: 'We Are Devastated'

The 20-year-old defensive lineman, a Chicago native, died in Las Vegas on Monday

Ryan Keeler
Ryan Keeler. Photo: UNLV Athletics

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas football team is mourning one of its own.

Ryan Keeler, a second-year at UNLV who had just transferred from Rutgers University, died on Monday, the school announced. He was 20 years old.

"We are devastated to have lost a member of our Rebel family," Barry Odom, the UNLV football coach, said in a statement. "While I had the honor of knowing Ryan for only a couple of months, he already stood out to our coaching staff as an incredible person, student and teammate. Our condolences and prayers go out to Ryan's family as we grieve along with them over this tremendous loss."

No cause of death was cited in the school's statement.

Keeler, a defensive lineman, had played just one football season at UNLV this past fall, after transferring from Rutgers. The UNLV statement described him as a "highly recruited player who garnered dozens of scholarship offers out of high school," as well as a high-achieving student.

Ryan Keeler
Ryan Keeler. Twitter

Erick Harper, Director of Athletics at UNLV, said the entire school is "in mourning today over the sudden loss of one of our own."

"Words are hard to come by this evening as we grieve the sudden and tragic loss of UNLV student-athlete Ryan Keeler," said UNLV President Keith E. Whitfield. "My sincere condolences are with Ryan's family, friends, loved ones, and teammates during this very difficult time."

Keeler's teammate, fellow defensive lineman Adam Plant Jr., shared a series of photos with the young player on Twitter in the wake of the news, sharing that he's "lost for words" at Keeler's death.

"Hurts me to even write this man rest in peace to my dawg Keeler gone way too soon man made me a better person and player everyday," Plant Jr. wrote in an Instagram story.

Another teammate, linebacker Austin Ajiake, described Keeler as "a great person."

"Never complained, had a great attitude, showed up and worked every day," Ajiake said in a statement shared with Las Vegas FOX 5's Paloma Villicana. "He was the kind of teammate you wanted around you."

Ryan Keeler
Ryan Keeler. UNLV

Ajiake added that he and Keeler, along with other teammates, would "watch film together during the season" and spent many nights making "memories" together.

"A lot of laughter and even tears at times. I will cherish them forever. His attitude was contagious and his impact will reach far more people than he could've imagined."

Keeler's high school, Nazareth Academy, located in a suburb outside of Chicago, shared a tribute to their alum on Monday night. "There are no words. Our hearts are heavy. God bless the Keeler family. We love you Ryan."

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