Winona State football player from Skokie dies at Minn. team workout

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Shawn Afryl, 22, collapsed and died at a Winona State University football workout in Minnesota. (WLS)

An undetected heart condition may have led to the collapse and sudden death of Shawn Afryl, a young football player from Skokie, officials said.

Afryl had graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign but was working on a second degree while also joining the football team at Minnesota's Winona State University.

"He was big, he was strong, he was healthy," said Sue Afryl, Shawn's mother. "We never knew."

Sue and her son Justin are mourning, still stunned that 22-year-old Shawn is gone. He was going through conditioning drills when he suddenly collapsed.

"Through high school, he did four years of football, both sides of the line, at every game, every quarter, he did track, he did wrestling," Sue said.

Coaches say the drills had just started.

"My heart just went to the ground, it's awful," said Winona State University Coach Tom Sawyer. "It's one of those calls you never want to get."

Sue, wearing his number 56 football jersey, remembers the football games Shawn played at University of Illinois. He had eligibility remaining, so when he enrolled at Winona to get a teaching degree, Shawn was able to join the football team.

His plan was to someday teach high school history and coach football.

In Bourbonnais, Bears General Manager Phil Emery talked about Shawn and the greater football family Wednesday.

"We want his folks out in Skokie to know the Bears family is thinking about them and our heart goes out to them," Emery said.

"Shawn was driven, focused and more important, he was the kindest, most caring, giving person you could ever know," Sue said.

No official cause of death has been released. Shawn's teammates are planning to come to Chicago later this week for his visitation and funeral.
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