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Devard Darling unsure of return

By BRIAN LANDMAN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 29, 2001


Florida State receiver Devard Darling, whose twin brother, Devaughn, died after an off-season workout in February, is unsure if he will resume his football career at the school.

"We have somebody's future at hand," said Monique Smith, 32, Darling's eldest sister, in a telephone interview from the family's home in suburban Houston. "And not only do you have to deal with somebody's future, but you're also dealing with the grieving process that is still going on for all of us.

"We just have to make sure Devard's taken care of. That's always our greatest concern, that we support him and help him make the best decision for himself, which isn't an easy thing for him to, especially without his twin brother."

But she and Frank Rutherford, 36, a cousin and father figure to the twins, said Devard is intent on playing again despite Devaughn's death Feb. 26.

Devaughn collapsed and died after completing demanding morning workouts, the so-called "mat drills." He was 18.

The medical examiner found no "definite morphological cause." But he did note that Darling had a rare sickle cell trait, the inherited presence of one abnormal hemoglobin gene (two abnormal genes would mean full-blown sickle cell disease), and that some studies have linked that trait to exercise-associated sudden death.

Smith and Rutherford said the family sent copies of the autopsy report to other doctors and asked an investigator to look at the data, and the consensus is that Devaughn had no heart problems.

Devard, 19, has had a battery of tests, including stress and electrocardiogram, while at home the past few months. None has revealed a heart problem, his family said.

"The one thing this family is certain about is that this is not a heart issue," Rutherford said. "We're not talking about what happened to Hank Gathers. We're not talking about what happened to Reggie Lewis. We're not talking about what happened to Florence Griffith-Joyner.

"There's no question Devard wants to play football. The question is whether he wants to play at Florida State. That's something as a family we're still dealing with right now."

Returning lettermen are to report Aug. 10, although many veterans and a smattering of true freshmen will be in Tallahassee sooner to begin informal workouts and weight training.

MORE FOOTBALL: Southern Mississippi running back Derrick Nix has curtailed summer workouts because of blood clots that forced him to enter a hospital for several days. Coach Jeff Bower said the clotting was related to a high protein level. He is optimistic Nix will be ready for fall drills.

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Linnea Liljestrand, a 5-foot-10 shooting guard from Stockholm, Sweden, who is a finalist for her national team, has signed a letter intent to play for FSU.

"Her international playing experience will allow her to have an immediate impact on our team," coach Sue Semrau said.

AGENT'S ASSOCIATE SENTENCED: Indicted agent Tank Black's assistant was sentenced in Gainesville to five years probation for violating Florida's player-agent laws.

The probation for Alfred Twitty is part of a plea agreement in the state case against Black and his associates. The probation will run concurrently with the five-year probation he received for similar offenses in a federal case, state attorney Bill Cervone said.

MISC.: Allen Bohl was hired as Kansas athletic director after helping lead a resurgence at Fresno State. ... The Big 12 gave commissioner Kevin Weiberg a five-year contract extension, through June 2006.

- Times wires contributed to this report.

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