The unexpected death of San Francisco 49ers offensive guard Thomas Herrion continues to shock the NFL community, as friends and teammates gather for a team memorial service, planned for Tuesday.
"Right now it's a day of mourning for the 49er family," head coach Mike Nolan told reporters on Sunday. "We lost a teammate and a very good friend as well."
Herrion collapsed in the locker room following Saturday night's 26-21 loss to the Denver Broncos. The team had concluded their usual post-game team meeting and had just finished kneeling and reciting the Lord's Prayer when the backup offensive lineman went down.
49ers team physicians and paramedics worked feverishly performing CPR, but Herrion did not respond.
Initially, the lineman's teammates were unaware of the severity of his condition, but were informed of his passing by Nolan just prior to their scheduled charter flight back to San Francisco.
"I got the news as we left the locker room," the head coach said.
"I had them arrange for us to get a hanger at the airport prior to us boarding the airplane. After we had gone through customs and all those checks, we all gathered in the hanger. That is where I talked to the team. I let them know that Thomas had passed away."
"I think everybody that came into contact with him feels the impact of what just happened," said Sione Pouha, a rookie defensive tackle with the New York Jets and former Utah Utes teammate.
"He was a go-get-it kind of guy who was the big comedian of the team, the guy to make everybody laugh. If times got rough, he was right there with you."
And he was right there with his teammates, as Herrion spent his final football moments, helping propel the 49ers on a 91-yard touchdown drive in the closing minutes of the game.
"Guy, how did I do?" Herrion asked former 49ers offensive lineman, Guy McIntyre as he sprinted to the sidelines.
McIntyre, who holds three San Francisco Super Bowl Rings and is currently the teams' Director of Player Development smiled, nodded and said "You did alright."
Herrion smiled back.
It was exactly what the 23-year old wanted to hear.
Michael John Schon has covered the National Football League and the Denver Broncos for the past nine years. As a member of the Pro Football Writers Association he has published and syndicated columns to both newspapers and magazines throughout the United States and Canada. His syndicated radio broadcast: "Schon Live" airs weekly on various radio stations around the country.
Schon can be reached at Schon@prostarmediagroup.net
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