'He was a special angel in our lives'

It was a tough scene. Less than 24 hours after he was pronounced dead, members of the Arizona Athletic Department and the Umeh family addressed the media to discuss the untimely death of UA football recruit McCollins Umeh. Below is a full transcript of the press gathering.<BR> <B>A memorial fund has been established at Tucson-area Wells Fargo banks.</B>

UA Athletic Director Jim Livengood

There are not many things worse or sadder in an athletic director's life than the reason we are gathered here today. McCollins Umeh was going to be a student athlete at the University of Arizona. As you all know, as we announced yesterday, he tragically left us yesterday afternoon.

We spent time earlier today with the family. He has a wonderful, wonderful family. Words are totally inadequate at this time to express what this young man was and is. I won't try to articulate it any more than that because that would be inadequate.

Arizona head football coach Mike Stoops

I've spent my whole lift in sports. You think you've experienced every emotion possible, but until yesterday that wasn't true. I experienced something yesterday that is very difficult. Anytime that you lose someone that is part of your family it is difficult. I can't tell you how devastating it is to our program to lose a player of his magnitude, for so many reasons.

The dynamics of McCollins a lot of the people here will never have the opportunity to experience. I've had the opportunity to be around him in a lot of different settings, recruiting him, having him here yesterday. Seeing his smile, seeing his personality before he went out to work out was refreshing. To get a call 20 or 30 minutes later and hear this news is tragic. His spirit, his smile, his personality will be everlasting in this program. He was special. Again, I feel very fortunate to know him for as long as I have known him. I'm sorry that a lot of people in this room will not get that experience, because he was a great, great person. He stood for all the right things and had an unbelievable future.

I can not say enough about him as a person. He talked about all the great things he wanted to accomplish and if you knew McCollins you knew that was all possible. To hear his brothers, his sisters, his aunts talk about him I feel like I've known him forever. I only knew him a short period of time and you knew everything they said about him was true.

It is a devastating time for us. Our thoughts and our prayers, they know are with this family and it is a great family. Seeing them has given me strength today and will make us all stronger.

Thank you.

Aunt Darlene McClemmon

First of all I just want to say thank God. I want to thank God because of all of the people I see here. Just by looking out here that MC, that is what we called him, was special. He was a special angel in our lives. He was kindhearted, he was trustworthy, he had a spirit that would just overpower those that did not have a spirit. MC was a kid that was brought up with the good times, the bad time, but always had a smile even though there were obstacles that got in his way. It did not stop him because of that million-dollar smile. That smile is what brought him here.

You know, he's not gone. He's just somewhere looking down at us. He went home to be with his Father, because he loved him more. We loved him, but God loved him more. MC had a large family. We called it an extended family because everyone he met was his family.

We let him go. We let him go to someone special. We did not give MC to anybody, we gave MC to another family that was his extended family. They took care of him. We're so thankful and proud of them. We were so proud of MC. We will miss him, just his earlthy body. With his spirit, he will always be here.

All I can tell you is that I am so thankful and grateful to God that MC had a family over on the other side. We appreciate them and everything that they did.

McCollins' father Ike Umeh

Good afternoon members of the press. Let me take this opportunity to thank you all for coming out here. I wish it were different circumstances that brought us all here. As we can all see it is not. This is a great tragedy that has happened to my family. It is a great loss.

When I left my son McCollins at 5:30 a.m. on Monday, the seventh of June, coming to Arizona everything was looking fine. 24 hours later we were getting a different message. There's nothing in the world anyone here could have done. I thank the university for their kindness, their hospitality. Since we've been here they've been running around doing whatever they could to make our stay comfortable. For what they did for my son in the short period he was here, I thank them all.

One of the greatest tragedies that can happen to a man is a dad burying his son. It should be the other way around. But this is exactly what we are about to do.

Like I said before, there was nothing we could do. If there was something any one of us could have done, we would have done it. A lot of people in here would have done it. I am sure that a lot of people did whatever they could do to save him, but it wasn't possible.

MC was a good kid, got along with everybody, never had enemies. When he went to school he got along. He was always smiling. He did everything he was asked to do as a child. He made me proud the short while he was on this earth.

I understood that education was the key to success. I taught him that, I kept telling him that. On Monday that was the last thing that I told him. You are going to Arizona to get an education. Apart from playing football, football is good, but most important to me was education. Without it nothing else is important.

I spoke to some of the coaches when they came down to Houston when they came out to recruit him. They are a bunch of nice people. I don't have anything bad to say about them. They have been wonderful. I'd like to take this time to thank all of you, and thank the coaching staff at the University of Arizona.

University of Arizona President Peter Likins

(Note: Dr. Likins addressed the family and not the media at this point)

I never met MC, but I feel like I know his family. I know what it is like to bury your son and there is no greater pain. You have my heartfelt sympathy. It is going to take courage from all of you just to hold it together to get through some very difficult times. Life is never going to be the same. I wear my son's ring and it reminds me everyday of his life and it was a beautiful life. He lived for 33 years and your son lived for 18.

You must take comfort in your belief in God. You must find a way as a family to pull together, because it is going to take all of the strength you have to get through this. Please understand or truly, truly know your feelings, we have our own feeling of shock or grief or despair. We feel your pain as much as any people can. We thank you for your graciousness and for the extraordinary grace in which you have handled this tragedy. We all hope we can all be similarly courageous when tragedy comes to our lives.

UA corner back Darrell Brooks

On behalf of the team, our thoughts and prayers and condolences go out to the family. The team was greatly saddened yesterday by the tragedy. We were all greatly anticipating and accepting MC's will and anticipation of joining our family. He did yesterday by taking part in the workouts.

This is certainly a tragic event and he will be missed by each and every one of us. We will continue to honor MC and keep him in our memories. We keep all his memories within this program. I don't think words can explain how we all feel. We will continue to support the entire staff a the University of Arizona, coach Stoops, coach Edmunds and the entire strength staff, as well as the entire training staff. They have helped us gain great strides and we have the confidence that they will continue to help us in those situations.

Once again our thoughts and prayers go out to MC and his family and we will do everything that we can as a team to support them and to support each other.

Associate AD Rocky LaRose

It is way too early in the process for us to answer many questions. We wanted to at least give you a brief outline of MC's day yesterday and kind of tell you what we know up to this point.

MC arrived early evening Monday night. He stayed with a teammate. He reported for his physical at 9:30 yesterday morning. He had a comprehensive and thorough physical. He passed his physical and he was released for conditioning.

At that point he met with the strength and conditioning coaches. He was very excited. He had a great spirit and he could not wait to get out on the field and start his Wildcat career. He had a big lunch and he got changed and reported on time for his 1:00 workout. It was a small group of athletes. It was a short workout. It started at roughly 1:00 and at 1:26 the 911 call was made.

At this point Livengood and LaRose answered questions. Most they either could not or would not answer. We are only printing those that they gave full answers to.

Question: Can you tell us who was on the field at the time as far as staff goes?

LaRose: We had three staff members on the field. Two strength coaches and an athletic trainer was on the field.

Question: Was there water on the field?

LaRose: Oh yeah, we follow all standards by the NCAA and follow all guidelines.

Question: Compared to practices in August with full pads, would it be safe to say this workout was less strenuous?

Livengood: The generic answer is absolutely…It was not like an August practice.

Photo by Carl F. Shifflette III

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