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A football star who played at Mississippi State University was shockingly found dead in a local church on Wednesday, days before what would have been his 19th birthday.

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Football Star Found Dead In Church

A spokesperson for the Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Office told TMZ that Sam Westmoreland, who was from Tupelo, Mississippi, was found dead inside the Blackjack Missionary Baptist Church in Starkville.

While police did not reveal a cause of death, they said that there is “no reason to suspect foul play.”

However, they added that they will continue to investigate Westmoreland’s death in the coming days. 

Westmoreland was a 6-foot-4 freshman offensive tackle who was majoring in industrial technology, according to The New York Post. He’d been a football star at Tupelo High School, making  back-to-back playoff appearances in 2019 and 2020.

Earlier this year, he was named to the Northeast Mississippi Football Coaches Association All-Star Game, and after starting his freshman year at MSU, he joined the football team as a walk-on lineman.

MSU announced Westmoreland’s death the day after his body was found.

“The university is working cooperatively with the Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Office, the Oktibbeha County Coroner’s Office, the MSU Division of Student Affairs, and the MSU Athletics Department to determine the facts of this incident and will have no further comment until that assessment is completed,” the school said in a statement, according to Daily Mail

The MSU athletic community has been left devastated by Westmoreland’s untimely death. 

“Everybody with the athletic program, from our athletic director John Cohen on down to [head football] coach [Mike] Leach, were impressed with him, impressed with his work ethic, impressed with the effort he put forth, and I think everybody believed that Sam was on a path that would carry him to success,” Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter told WTVA.

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MSU Football Coach Honors Westmoreland

MSU head football coach Mike Leach has since released a statement addressing Westmoreland’s death. 

“The Mississippi State Athletics Family is heartbroken by the sudden death of Sam Westmoreland,” Leach said. “Sam was a beloved son, brother and teammate, and a tremendous young man with a limitless future. He will always be remembered and deeply missed by everyone who knew and loved him.”

“The entire MSU Family mourns as our thoughts and prayers go out to the Westmoreland family,” he continued. “Our highest priority is the support of the Westmoreland family and our student-athletes during this troubling time.”

Mississippi State athletics director John Cohen released a statement of his own honoring the teenage football star.

“We are heartbroken by the sudden loss of Sam Westmoreland. Mississippi State is a family, and we are all mourning during this trying time,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Westmoreland family and everyone who knew and loved Sam.”

More Tributes For Westmoreland

Mississippi State president Mark E. Keenum honored Westmoreland as well, saying, “One of the most profound lessons I’ve learned while leading this great university is that the tragic loss of one of our students diminishes all of our students — and all of us at Mississippi State feel the impact of Sam Westmoreland’s death.”

“My prayers are with Sam’s family and friends, with his MSU teammates and coaches, and with the Tupelo community during this most difficult time,” he added. 

Find out more about Westmoreland’s death in the video below.

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Westmoreland’s fellow freshman Sean Simoncic described the MSU community as being a big family, explaining that while he did not personally know the late athlete, his death has hit the school hard. 

“Sam will be missed,” Salter said. “He was popular. He was well-liked by those teaching him and the coaching staff. You just don’t find anybody who doesn’t talk about his smile, his presence, and the impact he had on the people around him. So this will be felt and Sam will be greatly missed.”

Today would have been Westmoreland’s 19th birthday. Please join us in saying a prayer for his family and friends during this tragic time. 

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