Jacksonville, FL (WLTX) - Newberry College leaders spoke for the first time Thursday about the death Heath Benedict, a star player for the team.
According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, Benedict was found dead in his Florida home Wednesday. He was 24. No foul play is suspected in his death.
"He made a mark on the campus more because of who he was and not because of his athletics," Newberry College Athletics Director Andy Carter said at a news conference.
The school says grief counselors will be available for students next week when they return from Spring Break.
Benedict, a transfer from Tennessee, just finished his college career last season, becoming the first player from Newberry College to compete in the Under Armour Senior Bowl.
While he had a rough-looking exterior, those who knew him say he was a gentle giant. "He was a big teddy bear," says Zak Willis, Newberry College's football coach. "I told the pro scouts he had the unique ability to really dominate somebody physically on the field and smile at them while he's doing it. A very unique individual, a guy who was suited for Newberry College."
"It's one of the deepest hurts I've ever had as a human being. You know these guys are more than football players to me, and it's going to be really tough to be able to realize that he's really gone," Willis said.
He seemed to have a bright professional future ahead. Some projections had him going early in next month's NFL draft.
"He was a guy that had everything going for him, it's just a shock that he's not going to do it now, I just can't believe it," said Brandon Petty, a baseball player for Newberry College.
A memorial service for Benedict will take place on Tuesday, April 1. It will be held in the school's chapel at 9:25 a.m. It is open to the public.
Stay with and WLTX and WLTX.com for the latest details on this developing story.