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Students and staff at Kent's Theodore Roosevelt High School are in shock and grief following the unexpected death of sophomore Devon Conwell, who collapsed Wednesday night.
"It's very difficult when you lose a young one," Theodore Roosevelt High School Athletic Director John Nemec said. "It's not supposed to happen."
Devon, 15, collapsed during an Amateur Athletic Union team practice at the Pinnacle Sports facility in Twinsburg.
The Twinsburg Fire Department was called at 7:55 p.m.
An emergency team was on scene two minutes after getting the call. Paramedics found Devon in cardiac arrest, started CPR and transported him to the emergency room at the Twinsburg Family Health and Surgery Center. They arrived at 8:12 p.m. Resuscitation efforts there failed. Devon was pronounced dead at 8:45 p.m.
An autopsy is planned by the Summit County Medical Examiner in Akron.
Devon played on Roosevelt football's offensive and defensive lines, and junior varsity basketball.
Superintendant Joseph Giancola, Roosevelt Principal Robert Klinar, Nemec and basketball coach Ben Dunlap described Devon as an upbeat and fun student with a personal demeanor that touched everyone who knew him.
"I believe all the teachers and coaches and students knew him," Giancola said. "Devon had a contagious smile that went wherever he went. He had a way of being positive and bringing everyone else up around him, because of his happy view of the world around him."
Klinar said Devon was known around school as a "big, lovable guy," and a fierce competitor with a great deal of potential on the field and court.
"When he laid back his ears and went after somebody within the rules of the game he did a great job," Klinar said. "He definitely had some opportunities that a lot of young kids don't get."
Giancola said the district's crisis intervention team, made up of counselors from all over the Kent school district, were at the high school Thursday working with students and staff.
"We have different counseling methods and locations in the building to work with students who are very upset," Giancola said. Classes were going on as scheduled.
Dunlap said that although questions as to what caused Devon's collapse Wednesday couldn't be answered with certainty, faculty and students have to stick together while the school and community grieve.
"We preach 'family' and we let everybody know that this isn't something we have any answers for, but none of us are going to be able to get through it by ourselves," Dunlap said, adding that he spent most of his morning counseling small groups of students. "It's sad to see this halfway through his high school career. He was always looking to get better and had all the potential in the world."
As a football player, Devon was getting early looks from a number of Division I college football programs, including Ohio University, Nemec said.
"My wife, Mary, and I spent some time with (Devon's) family today and I was just really impressed with the way that the community rallied around them," Nemec said. "It says a lot about this community that there were people over bringing food and offering to help the family however they can. It says a lot about small town Ohio."
After school ended Thursday, high school students gathered around the Spirit Rock on Roosevelt's front lawn to paint "Forever in our hearts Devon."
Record-Courier sports reporter Colin Harris and Twinsburg Bulletin reporter Connor Howard contributed to this story.
I am so saddened by this horrible tragedy to such a wonderful young man. He must have been really special for so many people to have loved him the way they do. My prayers and sympathy goes out to the family and friends during this very difficult time. We are all behind you and will remain with you. Most importantly God is with myself and you too. He will come through for all of us. God bless.