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Texas A&M Athlete Brandon Fails Dies

November 26, 2002

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) _ A Texas A&M freshman football player died Monday morning after complaining to his roommate he was having trouble breathing.

Brandon Fails, 18, died at St. Joseph Regional Health Center, school officials said. An autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death.

The 6-foot-1, 307-pound defensive lineman appeared in four games for the Aggies before undergoing knee surgery on Oct. 22.

``Brandon was a bright-eyed young man with an engaging personality,″ Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum said. ``You couldn’t be around Brandon for very long without smiling. He was an outstanding football player but an even better person.

``He was the kind of guy you wanted to hug when you got near him,″ Slocum said. ``He was a touchy kind of guy, just a lovable kid.″

Slocum said Fails’ roommate, tight end Patrick Fleming, told him Fails collapsed as they prepared to leave their room for breakfast in the dorm cafeteria.

``It would be only speculation at this point as to the cause of his death,″ Slocum said. ``He was fine. He was at practice yesterday afternoon. He did not practice. He was recuperating from knee surgery early in the year.″

Fleming told Slocum he and Fails went out to dinner with a friend Sunday evening without any problems.

Slocum informed Fails’ parents of their son’s death.

``Any time you get in a situation like this it dramatically points out what is really important,″ Slocum said. ``You are sitting in a room with a mother and father and telling them their son is dead. Everything else pales by comparison.″

Slocum said the team would not practice on Monday but would resume workouts Tuesday to prepare for Friday’s regular-season finale against the Texas Longhorns in Austin. There were no plans to attempt to postpone the game.

``I don’t think you could do that,″ Slocum said. ``I don’t think Brandon or his family would want that. We have an obligation to Brandon and his legacy to practice tomorrow and to be ready to play.″

Texas canceled Monday night’s hex rally, an annual ritual the week of the Texas A&M game.

``Our hearts go out to the family and to the Texas A&M staff and players,″ Longhorns coach Mack Brown said. ``We understand their pain.″

Texas lineman Cole Pittman died in a car crash in February 2001.

It is the second time in four years that tragedy has struck Texas A&M in the week leading up to the Texas game.

Twelve students were killed and 27 others injured in the bonfire collapse of Nov. 18, 1999. The 59-foot-high stack of more than 5,000 logs collapsed while under construction.

The bonfire, traditionally lighted on the eve of Texas A&M’s football game against Texas, has been suspended ever since, ending a 90-year tradition.

Aggies defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt said Fails had a promising future and was popular among his teammates.

``It’s hard for a kid that’s college age and thinks he’s invincible and see one of his friends not here with us,″ Wyatt said. ``Some of the younger guys that came in with him are having a tougher time than the older guys.

``But they all spend a lot of time together in meetings and lifting weight. Not having Brandon a part of them is tearing them up,″ he said.

Fails’ parents rushed to College Station from their home near Fort Worth early Monday.

``Words cannot describe the pain and sorrow felt by our football family regarding the loss of this fine young man,″ Slocum said. ``His family is in our thoughts and prayers.″

In limited playing time this season, Fails was in on two tackles against Louisiana Tech.

Fails is the third player to die during Slocum’s 14 seasons as Aggies coach.

Defensive lineman Terry Nichols was killed in a car accident on May 27, 2000. In November 1991, kicker James Glenn collapsed before practice and died. An autopsy revealed he had an enlarged heart.