Gophers grieve death of ex-teammate Tinsley
MINNEAPOLIS — The mood on the University of Minnesota's campus was a somber one Friday, as members of the Gophers football team grieved the loss of a friend and former teammate.
Former Minnesota linebacker Gary Tinsley was found dead in his on-campus apartment Friday morning. He was 22 years old.
"It's just overall a sad day for Gopher Nation as well as the Gopher football team," said Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray. "It's just weird how things work. Last night we were just texting each other, and today he's gone. I guess that's just the way God works. He was a great brother, great teammate, great friend."
Added head coach Jerry Kill: "I think the biggest thing I would encourage our fans, our state and our university, the most important thing in all this is Gary Tinsley's family and our players. And I love them all."
Tinsley's roommate at Roy Wilkins Hall called police at 7:40 a.m. on Friday morning, according to University of Minnesota police chief Greg Hestness. Police and emergency medical services arrived at the apartment shortly after. CPR was administered to Tinsley, who was not breathing, but emergency responders were not able to resuscitate him and he was pronounced dead on the scene.
"There was no immediate indication of crime, things we'd expect, weapons, struggle, injuries that were obvious, none of that. All of those things were absent," Hestness said. "Nevertheless, the death of a young athlete is out of the ordinary. You only get one opportunity to handle the crime scene properly, so we're treating it as a suspicious death."
Hestness added that he was not aware of any pre-existing medical conditions Tinsley may have had. Hestness also said there was no evidence of drugs or alcohol discovered at the scene, although authorities are still awaiting results from a toxicology report.
Tinsley was a senior during the Gophers' 2011 season and was second on the Minnesota defense with 87 total tackles in 12 games. He also had a team-high four sacks and nine tackles for loss. Tinsley had signed an agent and was hoping to continue his football career at the professional level.
Tinsley played in seven games as a freshman and 13 as a sophomore before starting 12 games as a junior. During his junior season, Tinsley led the Gophers with 90 tackles and added an interception, a sack and 9.5 tackles for loss.
Tinsley came to Minnesota from Jacksonville, where he starred at First Coast High School.
"The Gary that I knew was very competitive, one of those people in the lockerroom that didn't like when we lost. But he loved life," said Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi, who was on the airport tarmac in Tampa on Friday morning when he received a call from Kill about Tinsley's death. "He always made me feel good. I think he made others feel good as well."
Off the field, Tinsley ran into a bit of legal trouble while on campus. He was cited for underage drinking and fleeing the police on foot during his sophomore year. The next offseason, he was arrested again and pleaded guilty to fleeing a peace officer on foot and fourth-degree DWI, both misdemeanors.
Since those incidents, however, those who were close to Tinsley saw him grow as a person off the field.
"Obviously I don't know all of the 750 athletes as well as I'd like. Gary's one that I knew," Maturi said. "Sometimes I got to know him because of some of the things he did that I had to deal with. Great to see his growth."
Tinsley was set to graduate from Minnesota next month. The university announced Friday that Tinsley will posthumously be given his degree in business and marketing education.
The Gophers were scheduled to practice on Saturday morning at TCF Bank Stadium, but that practice has been canceled. Whenever the Gophers do return to the field, they'll do so with heavy hearts.
"From myself and the rest of the team, we're really sad that this had to happen," Gray said. "We just have to use it as motivation and to continue to stick together as well."
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