After Karageorge was missing for more than four days, his body was found in a dumpster near his residence south of campus yesterday. While an official autopsy hasn’t been released, initial reports from police indicate that the walk-on defensive lineman died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Junior Taylor Decker knew Karageorge through mutual friends for about two years before he walked on to the football team, and the two had gotten closer over the last three months after the former Ohio State wrestler suited up. The left tackle was visibly shaken when speaking about his deceased friend Monday, often fighting back tears while reflecting on his lost teammate.
“He was a great guy and he helped this football team a lot and that can’t be understated,” Decker said. “I can only imagine what the guys he wrestled with are feeling like because I know he’s definitely been through more with them than anybody. It’s a shame that things ended up the way they did. Your heart just breaks, especially for his family.
“I know that I was thinking about it all night. You just wake up and hope it was all a nightmare. Just for somebody that you know you’ve been with every day for months and months, it’s sad.”
The Franklin County Coroner said the investigation is ongoing, but the time of death was possibly Friday, according to reports from The Lantern.
Both Decker and fellow offensive lineman Pat Elflein said that Karageorge seemed to be himself at practice Tuesday, hours before he left his home to go for a walk and never returned, according to his roommates.
The team is leaning on one another in the difficult time.
“In the locker room, you can feel it,” Elflein said. “In each unit, you can feel it. On the practice field, you can feel it … just guys coming together. He was a huge part of that. What he put into everything is like the model of what we want – of effort and toughness and being passionate and loyal. That’s who he was, and that’s kind of what everyone tries to be. That’s the model.”
Karageorge joined the football team after exhausting his eligibility as a heavyweight wrestler. His gridiron teammates will remember him as a man who loved physical sports, tattoos and riding his motorcycle. Though they all remembered him as an easygoing person who was fun to be around, as the search for Karageorge dragged on, they feared the worst.
“Yesterday when we got the news after practice, it was definitely tough to hear about what happened,” Decker said. “Obviously before that a lot of us were worried, just for a guy to disappear.
“It’s just sad that things ended up the way they did. It’s amazing the things that can be bottled up inside and he was obviously dealing with a lot and he was struggling. You wouldn’t have seen it on the outside.”
Karageorge had suffered multiple concussions throughout his athletic career, his family told reporters, and he texted his mother the night he disappeared about those incidences affecting him. One member of the team said he was aware of Karageorge’s history with head injuries.
"We knew he had a lot of concussions. But you never knew he was depressed or anything like that," defensive lineman Mike Bennett said on a conference call Monday. "I think he was one of the most positive people out of everybody, which goes to show you can't tell when something sneaks up. There's just no way to notice it.
"We knew he had a lot of concussions and we were worried about that. But we didn't see any side effects of it."
The Franklin County Coroner’s office told the AP a neuropathologist is expected to look for signs of brain injury as part of the autopsy.
Urban Meyer declined to answer a question today about Karageorge’s medical history based on federal privacy laws but did say that the medical personnel at Ohio State is the best he has worked with throughout his career. Decker agreed, though he said the Karageorge incident brought the issue of concussions to the forefront.
“It is scary,” Decker said. “I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about things like that before. It’s real and you have to realize that when you put that helmet on and go out there and play. It’s just a byproduct of the game and it’s sad that it is. It’s sad that extremes like this occur. I know the official autopsy hasn’t been given on what the official cause was, but I know reports had been released about him having problems with concussions.”
Despite the tragedy that is Karageorge’s death, the Buckeyes still have a football game to play on Saturday. Meyer echoed the sentiments of Decker and Elflein that the team was extremely close-knit and that may make getting on the field against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game easier.
Teammates said that’s what Karageorge would have wanted.
“My prayers are out to his family,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said. “Kosta wasn't here for that long but he definitely became an important part of our family. I know I became pretty good friends with Kosta and his loss hurts. We have some things to take care of, and we'll do it for him.”
Decker said that Karageorge would not want anything to hold the team back but said that recent events put a game in perspective.
“We are trained to handle adverse situations,” Decker said. “Obviously not something of this magnitude. We’re trained to play football and this is so much more than that. Football is just a game. People blow it out of proportion and make it a lot bigger than it is. We just have to go back to each other, lean on each other for strength because obviously it is hard for a lot of people.”
Hopefully for the Buckeyes’ sake, remembering the good-natured, blue-collar man that Karageorge was will make things a little easier.