NASHVILLE (TSU News Service) – Referring to him as humble, caring, funny and never giving up, Tennessee State University faculty, students, administrators and friends today paid homage to William Wayne Jones III, a freshman from Smyrna, Tenn., who died suddenly at Baptist Medical Center in Nashville Nov. 7.
In a memorial service organized by administrators, the Athletics Department, Student Affairs and the various colleges, speakers in a packed Kean Hall spoke about the late “Tiger Cub’s” ambition to be the best while never complaining no matter the task.
“There is just no word to describe the sadness we feel or to say for a person who died so soon,” said TSU President Portia Holmes Shields, whose reflection on the 19-year-old goes back to “Boot Camp,” a summer student success program for incoming freshmen, and on the sideline at football games.
“I am personally affected by Wayne’s passing because I interacted with him and the other Boot Campers regularly,” Dr. Shields said. “Not only did he exhibit a high level of maturity and sense of responsibility, he also made many friends through his sense of humor and excitement about being a student here. He was on his way to becoming a leader.”
Wayne, as he was referred to by family and friends, and a member of the TSU football team, collapsed andbecame unresponsive during early evening practice. After being treated by EMT on site at the practice field on campus, he was taken to Baptist Medical Center where efforts to revive him were unsuccessful and he died a few hours later.
“I only have to trust God for an answer because we don’t understand when something like this happens,” said head football coach Rod Reed, describing Wayne as “a very challenging person” who always wanted to give it his all. “With Wayne gone, things will not be normal around here, but I can assure you, he will not be forgotten.”
With the football season almost over, coach Reed dedicated the rest of the season to his late player, a walk-on, who had been red-shirted “working hard” to be a full member of the squad next year.
“For the rest of the season, we will be playing for Wayne – someone who gave his sweat and blood for the team,” Reed added.
“Wayne will truly be missed,” said a teary-eyed Mamaya Wright, freshman biology major from Cincinnati, Ohio, who was in Boot Camp with the late Smyrna native. “Wayne was a very kind-hearted and loving person. He always had a smile on his face. We grew close during Boot Camp and all of us formed a friendship with him.”
The TSU New Direction Gospel Choir, an all-student group, performed two spiritual songs that left the audience, particularly students visibly emotional – also looking for answers for the sudden death of one of their own.
But Dr. Shields admonished Wayne’s fellow Boot campers, teammates, freshmen and the entire University Family to remember Wayne for who he was. “He was ambitious and he never gave up. Remember how he made people laugh. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this very difficult time,” she said.
Also paying tributes at the service were Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. A. Dexter Samuels; Athletics Director Teresa Phillips; Boot Camp Coordinator Derek Wilson; Mr.Freshman Delvakio Brown; and Justus Jarvis and Derrail Brown, organizers of the memorial service.
Minister Lee Brown, of the Urban Director Fellowship of Christian Athletes, presided at the memorial service, which was also attended by former TSU President Melvin N. Johnson.