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Catamount Football Family Mourns Loss of Junior Defensive Back

July 9, 2009

Cullowhee, N.C. - The Western Carolina Catamount football family met Thursday, July 9, as it continued to cope with the sudden loss of Ja'Quayvin Smalls. The junior defensive back collapsed during a voluntary workout session on Wednesday evening and passed away at the Harris Regional Hospital in Sylva.

The incident occurred during what was the first workout for the incoming players who joined the squad at Tuesday's opening of WCU's second session of summer school. Western Carolina canceled all remaining voluntary workout sessions scheduled for both Thursday and Friday, with plans to resume next week.

"Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to the Smalls family as they suffer the loss of a loved one," said WCU head coach Dennis Wagner in a statement released Thursday evening. "It is certainly a sad day in Catamount athletics. Although the time we were able to spend with Ja'Quayvin here on campus was far too brief, we had already built a relationship with him and his family through the recruiting process. We got to know what a wonderful young man that he was. We are going to miss him dearly."

University Chancellor John W. Bardo, the coaching staff, and members of the university student support and counseling centers met with the team for slightly more than an hour Thursday evening in the first of a series of planned gatherings.

"Right now we are concerned with comforting the Smalls family and helping them get Ja'Quayvin back to the Charleston area," Wagner said. "And we are concerned for our players, because they, too, suffered a loss in a teammate. Some of our players were there when it happened, and we are here for them to answer questions and to help get them through this. They are a strong group of guys and they all care for each other and will find a way to regroup in this trying time."



The funeral services celebrating the life of Ja'Quayvin Smalls will be held on Monday, July 13, at Noon in East Cooper Baptist Church in Mount Pleasant, S.C.

Wagner and his coaching staff spent the majority of the day assisting members of the Smalls family, who arrived in Sylva just before noon on Thursday, while also tending to the student-athletes left stunned by Wednesday's events.

"Any loss of life is a tragedy, but it is especially tragic when someone is taken from us at such a young age," said Chip Smith, WCU director of athletics, in a statement released late Wednesday evening. "Our hearts and prayers are with the family and friends of Ja'Quayvin, and with his coaches and teammates."

Smalls, who transferred to WCU from Georgia Military College and enrolled in the second session of summer school, complained of cramps during running drills as a part of Wednesday night's workout session on the turf at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field. He removed himself from the exercise and, while being treated, quit breathing. At that point, athletic training personnel administered CPR until emergency medical personnel from WestCare arrived at the stadium.

A native of Mount Pleasant, S.C., Smalls was transported to Harris Hospital, where he died at approximately 7:30 p.m.

"The outpouring of support that we have experienced from fellow Southern Conference member institutions and schools across the country has been tremendous," Wagner concluded on Thursday evening. "Our football family greatly appreciates the heart-felt condolences through E-mails and phone calls that we have received all day. We ask that you continue to keep the Smalls family and our football team in your thoughts and prayers."

More information, including memorial and funeral services, will be provided as soon as it is made available.

UPDATE on the funeral arrangements for Ja'Quayvin Smalls:

The funeral services celebrating the life of Ja'Quayvin Ja'Quar Smalls of Mount Pleasant, S.C., will be held on Monday, July 13, 2009 at Noon in the East Cooper Baptist Church (361 Egypt Road, Mt. Pleasant, S.C. 29464). He will be laid to rest in Long Point Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery (1857 Snowden Road, Mt. Pleasant, S.C. 29464) with Rev. Sidney Melvin, Eulogist.

Visitation with family will be from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Long Point Missionary Baptist Church. There will be no viewing at the funeral home.