Jamain Stephens, a senior defensive lineman at California University of Pennsylvania, has passed away at 20. The Vulcans’ release didn’t include any information on Stephens’ cause of death, and an official cause of death has not been released. But a Facebook post from Stephens’ high school, Central Catholic (in Pittsburgh), indicated that his death came after he suffered complications from COVID-19:
Brad Everett of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also wrote that Stephens “died of COVID-19 complications” in an obituary. Here’s more from that piece:
Jamain Stephens was a big guy whose size — 6 feet 3, 355 pounds — was somehow eclipsed by his even bigger smile and gregarious personality.
“It was universal,” said Terry Totten, Stephens’ high school football coach. “He lit up a room. Whether you were a freshman or senior in class, you knew who he was.”
On Tuesday, Stephens, the kid known to everyone simply as “Juice,” died of COVID-19 complications. He was just 20 years old.
And here’s more from Cal U’s official statement:
California University of Pennsylvania is saddened to learn of the death of Jamain Stephens, a business administration major and a senior on the football team. Cal U mourns the loss and extends its condolences to his family and friends.
“Jamain was such a wonderful student with a smile on his face every time you saw him,” said Athletic Director Dr. Karen Hjerpe. “His personality was contagious and he made such a positive impact on everyone he met.”
Stephens appeared in 32 games for the Vulcans across three seasons, mostly as a reserve defensive lineman. His father, also named Jamain Stephens, played offensive line in college at North Carolina A&T before being selected in the first round of the 1996 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. The elder Stephens went on to a five-year NFL career with the Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Vulcans weren’t set to play football this fall; they’re in the Division II Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, which officially postponed its fall sports back in June. And their entire school is holding no on-campus events this fall semester. But while Stephens’ passing is not directly related to plans for fall football, the reports linking his death to COVID-19 complications do add to the case that this virus can be quite dangerous even to collegiate athletes. And while Stephens is only one of the many U.S. deaths amongst those who have contracted COVID-19 (a number that reached 190,327 as of Tuesday, as per NBC News), he’s believed to be the first current college football player to die after contracting COVID-19.
A GoFundMe to help Stephens’ family with funeral costs had raised $4,415 of its $5,000 goal early Tuesday evening. That fundraiser can be found here.