tampabay.com

USF player dies after workout

Keeley Dorsey, 19, a freshman from Tallahassee, collapses in the weight room.

By GREG AUMAN
Published January 18, 2007


TAMPA - You could learn a lot about Keeley Dorsey from his personal page at Myspace.com, simply titled "Future," with a photo that shows him in his USF football uniform, his huge arms crossed, a proud stare on his face.

Dorsey visited his Myspace page on Wednesday like any other day, went to USF's athletic facility for a normal offseason workout in the weight room. That's where things turned tragic for the 19-year-old freshman running back from Tallahassee, who collapsed during the workout and died at nearby University Community Hospital.

"I hurt for Keeley. I hurt for Keeley's parents. I hurt for our team," said coach Jim Leavitt, who flew back from a recruiting visit in West Palm Beach to be with his players. "Keeley was a tremendous person. He was always upbeat and an inspiration to me and all of us. He had a great impact on our team, and he will be sorely missed."

Dorsey was one of six Bulls to play as a true freshman in 2006, scoring on a 52-yard touchdown run on the final play of his first college game, a 41-10 rout of McNeese State. He played sparingly in eight games, but Kyle Rice, the coach at Tallahassee's Lincoln High, said you couldn't find a prouder player than Dorsey, who visited his high school two weeks ago.

"He had to work extra hard to get there, so he was so excited for the opportunity," he said. "He loved Lincoln and Lincoln loved him, but he saw a lot in USF's program, loved the coaches and everyone down there."

Dorsey, 5 feet 11 and 210 pounds, had one of the team's strongest arms from his days as a quarterback at Lincoln. Rice remembers as other players stood around during a break in practice, Dorsey would throw the ball as far as he could straight up, catch it, and repeat.

"He could throw it 40 yards straight up," Rice said. "He definitely had a cannon."

Dorsey stood out to Rice for his commitment in the weight room and his persistence in the classroom. In part because he attended three high schools, he didn't graduate in four years, but he was as diligent his last year at Lincoln, wanting to get back to football at the next level.

"Keeley was a kid you never had to worry about where he was," he said. "You knew he'd be in the weight room, in study hall, doing all the things he knew he had to do to get where he wanted to be."

USF senior Jeremy Burnett, the team's starting strong safety, said he quickly came to respect Dorsey's work ethic.

"He had a lot of spirit, was somebody you liked to be around," Burnett said. "I'm going to miss him."

With Leavitt out of town, athletic director Doug Woolard addressed the team Wednesday afternoon to tell them the news. Counselors visited with players, and the university set up a 24-hour hotline for students.

"Our entire athletic family is deeply saddened by this tragic loss," Woolard said in a brief news conference on campus.

USF has faced such tragedy before in its 10 years of football. In 2001, Patrick Payton, home in Miami after redshirting his first season with the Bulls, was killed in a motorcycle accident. In October 2005, basketball guard Bradley Mosley, just 22, died after a yearlong battle with kidney cancer. Unlike Mosley's death, the Bulls couldn't see Dorsey's death coming, and unlike Payton, it happened right in their midst, with no immediate answers as to why a healthy athlete would die at such a young age.

"There's nothing more tragic than the loss of a student," USF president Judy Genshaft said.

Dorsey had only been on campus five months, but USF coaches already trusted him with the responsibility of hosting recruits on official visits. This past weekend, he hosted three players, including two running backs who represented potential competition for playing time in the fall.

Largo High senior running back Josh Bellamy, who has committed to play at USF, said he would have liked to play with Dorsey, even after just one weekend of walking around campus and playing video games.

"He sold the school pretty good, was real cool when he talked about playing for USF," Bellamy said. "It hit me hard when I heard the news."

Times staff writer Stephanie Hayes and correspondent Mike Camunas contributed to this report. Greg Auman can be reached at auman@sptimes.com or 813 226-3346